Knowledge and Lotteries is organized around an epistemological puzzle: in many cases, we seem consistently inclined to deny that we know a certain class of propositions, while crediting ourselves with knowledge of propositions that imply them. In its starkest form, the puzzle is this: we do not think we know that a given lottery ticket will be a loser, yet we normally count ourselves as knowing all sorts of ordinary things that entail that its holder will not suddenly acquire a (...) large fortune. After providing a number of specific and general characterizations of the puzzle, Hawthorne carefully examines the competing merits of candidate solutions. In so doing, he explores a number of central questions concerning the nature and importance of knowledge, including the relationship of knowledge to assertion and practical reasoning, the status of epistemic closure principles, the merits of various brands of scepticism, the prospects for a contextualist account of knowledge, and the potential for other sorts of salience-sensitive accounts. Along the way, he offers a careful treatment of pertinent issues at the foundations of semantics. His book will be of interest to anyone working in the field of epistemology, as well as to philosophers of language. (shrink)
This book critically examines some widespread views about the semantic phenomenon of reference and the cognitive phenomenon of singular thought. It begins with a defense of the view that neither is tied to a special relation of causal or epistemic acquaintance. It then challenges the alleged semantic rift between definite and indefinite descriptions on the one hand, and names and demonstratives on the other—a division that has been motivated in part by appeals to considerations of acquaintance. Drawing on recent work (...) in semantics, the book explores a more unified account of all four types of expression, according to which none of them paradigmatically fits the profile of a referential term. On the proposed framework, all four involve existential quantification but admit of uses that exhibit many of the traits associated with reference—a phenomenon that is due to the presence of what we call a ‘singular restriction’ on the existentially quantified domain. The book concludes by drawing out some implications of the proposed semantic picture for the traditional categories of reference and singular thought. (shrink)
Judging by our folk appraisals, then, knowledge and action are intimately related. The theories of rational action with which we are familiar leave this unexplained. Moreover, discussions of knowledge are frequently silent about this connection. This is a shame, since if there is such a connection it would seem to constitute one of the most fundamental roles for knowledge. Our purpose in this paper is to rectify this lacuna, by exploring ways in which knowing something is related to rationally acting (...) upon it, defending one particular proposal against anticipated objections. (shrink)
Cappelen and Hawthorne present a powerful critique of fashionable relativist accounts of truth, and the foundational ideas in semantics on which the new relativism draws. They argue compellingly that the contents of thought and talk are propositions that instantiate the fundamental monadic properties of truth and falsity.
Lewis's notion of a "natural" property has proved divisive: some have taken to the notion with enthusiasm, while others have been sceptical. However, it is far from obvious what the enthusiasts and the sceptics are disagreeing about. This paper attempts to articulate what is at stake in this debate.
The capacity to represent things to ourselves as possible plays a crucial role both in everyday thinking and in philosophical reasoning; this volume offers much-needed philosophical illumination of conceivability, possibility, and the relations between them.
It is tempting to posit an intimate relationship between belief and assertion. The speech act of assertion seems like a way of transferring the speaker’s belief to his or her audience. If this is right, then you might think that the evidential warrant required for asserting a proposition is just the same as the warrant for believing it. We call this thesis entitlement equality. We argue here that entitlement equality is false, because our everyday notion of belief is unambiguously a (...) weak one. Believing something is true, we argue, is compatible with having relatively little confidence in it. Asserting something requires something closer to complete confidence. Specifically, we argue that believing a proposition merely requires thinking it likely, but that thinking that a proposition is likely does not entitle one to assert it. This conclusion conflict with a standard view that ‘full belief’ is the central commonsense non-factive attitude. (shrink)
The beginning of the twenty-first century saw something of a comeback for relativism within analytical philosophy. Relativism and Monadic Truth has three main goals. First, we wished to clarify what we take to be the key moving parts in the intellectual machinations of self-described relativists. Secondly, we aimed to expose fundamental flaws in those argumentative strategies that drive the pro-relativist movement and precursors from which they draw inspiration. Thirdly, we hoped that our polemic would serve as an indirect defence of (...) a traditional and natural picture concerning truth. According to this picture, what we call ‘Simplicity’, the fundamental structure of semantic reality is best revealed by construing truth as a simple monadic property of propositions that serve as the objects of belief, assertion, meaning and agreement. Our project was not a straightforward one. So-called relativists are not uniform in their key ideology, are often sloppy, casual, obscure or confused in their self-characterization, and differ in their argumentative emphasis among themselves and over time, thereby presenting a target that is both amorphous and shifty. This is an area where parties will frequently claim not to understand each other and where certain parties will sometimes accuse others of failing to make any sense at all. In such a situation, any effort to impose order will inevitably strike some parties as tendentious and unfair. That said, we felt that we had enough of …. (shrink)
A very simple contextualist treatment of a sentence containing an epistemic modal, e.g. a might be F, is that it is true iff for all the contextually salient community knows, a is F. It is widely agreed that the simple theory will not work in some cases, but the counterexamples produced so far seem amenable to a more complicated contextualist theory. We argue, however, that no contextualist theory can capture the evaluations speakers naturally make of sentences containing epistemic modals. If (...) we want to respect these evaluations, our best option is a relativist theory of epistemic modals. On a relativist theory, an utterance of a might be F can be true relative to one context of evaluation and false relative to another. We argue that such a theory does better than any rival approach at capturing all the behaviour of epistemic modals. (shrink)
John Hawthorne is widely regarded as one of the finest philosophers working today. He is perhaps best known for his contributions to metaphysics, and this volume collects his most notable papers in this field. Hawthorne offers original treatments of fundamental topics in philosophy, including identity, ontology, vagueness, and causation. Six of the essays appear here for the first time, and there is a valuable introduction to guide the reader through the selection.
Can there be 'narrow' mental content, that is entirely determined by the goings-on inside the head of the thinker? This book argues not, and defends instead a thoroughgoing externalism: the entanglement of our minds with the external world runs so deep that no internal component of mentality can easily be cordoned off.
Seth Yalcin has pointed out some puzzling facts about the behaviour of epistemic modals in certain embedded contexts. For example, conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and it might not be raining, … ’ sound unacceptable, unlike conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and I don’t know it, … ’. These facts pose a prima facie problem for an orthodox treatment of epistemic modals as expressing propositions about the knowledge of some contextually specified individual or group. This paper (...) develops an explanation of the puzzling facts about embedding within an orthodox framework. (shrink)
Defenses of pragmatic encroachment commonly rely on two thoughts: first, that the gap between one’s strength of epistemic position on p and perfect strength sometimes makes a difference to what one is justified in doing, and second, that the higher the stakes, the harder it is to know. It is often assumed that these ideas complement each other. This chapter shows that these ideas are far from complementary. Along the way, a variety of strategies for regimenting the somewhat inchoate notion (...) of stakes are indicated, and some troubling cases for pragmatic encroachment raised. (shrink)
Most meanings we express belong to large families of variant meanings, among which it would be implausible to suppose that some are much more apt for being expressed than others. This abundance of candidate meanings creates pressure to think that the proposition attributing any particular meaning to an expression is modally plastic: its truth depends very sensitively on the exact microphysical state of the world. However, such plasticity seems to threaten ordinary counterfactuals whose consequents contain speech reports, since it is (...) hard to see how we could reasonably be confident in a counterfactual whose consequent can be true only if a certain very finely tuned microphysical configuration obtains. This essay develops the foregoing puzzle and explores several possible solutions. (shrink)
This anthology introduces advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students to today's debates in metaphysics. The book consists of essays by contemporary metaphysicians, and all but one appear here for the first time. For each of nine topics, there are two essays, one "pro-" and one "con-".
The analysis of desire ascriptions has been a central topic of research for philosophers of language and mind. This work has mostly focused on providing a theory of want reports, that is, sentences of the form ‘S wants p’. In this paper, we turn from want reports to a closely related but relatively understudied construction, namely hope reports, that is, sentences of the form ‘S hopes p’. We present two contrasts involving hope reports and show that existing approaches to desire (...) fail to explain these contrasts. We then develop a novel account that combines some of the central insights in the literature. We argue that our theory provides an elegant account of our contrasts and yields a promising analysis of hoping. (shrink)
In this paper, we present two puzzles involving desire reports concerning series of events. What does a person want to happen in the first event---is it the event with the highest expected return, or the event that is the initial part of the best series? We show that existing approaches fail to resolve the puzzles around this question and develop a novel account of our own. Our semantics is built around three ideas. First, we propose that desire ascriptions are evaluated (...) relative to a contextually supplied set of propositions, or alternatives. The semantic value of an ascription `S wants p' is determined by S's preference ordering over these alternatives. Second, we propose that desire reports carry a requirement to the e ect that the prejacent of the ascription must be suitably related to the background set of alternatives. Finally, we suggest that desire reports carry a dominance condition concerning the subject's ranking of the alternatives. (shrink)
As is well known, Aristotelian natural philosophy, and many other systems of natural philosophy since, have relied heavily on teleology and teleological causation. Somehow, the purpose or end of an obj ect can be used to predict and explain what that object does: once you know that the end of an acorn is to become an oak, and a few things about what sorts of circumstances are conducive to the attainment of this end, you can predict a lot about the (...) sprouting of the acorn and the subsequent behaviour of the piece of vegetation that results. Once you know that a rock seeks to move towards the centre of the Earth, you gain some insight into why it falls when released, and why it deforms the carpet or foot that it lands on. Once you know that the rabbit seeks to preserve itself, you can predict it will run from the fox. And so on. There are at least three features of Aristotle’s teleology, and more generally of an Aristotelian frame of mind about teleology, that may induce suspicion. One is that an end can serve as a "cause": as well as the sort of causation we all recognize, efficient causation, there are other forms, one of which is teleological causation. However, this can look less odd if we think of causes as things that figure in "because" answers to "why" questions. Whether or not self-preservation, or the rabbit’s continued existence, or something similar, causes the rabbit to run, the reply "because it seeks to continue in existence" certainly makes sense as an answer, or part of an answer, to a question about why it ran from the fox. (At present we are only. (shrink)
Under what conditions are two utterances utterances of the same word? What are words? That these questions have not received much attention is rather surprising: after all, philosophers and linguists frequently appeal to considerations about word and sentence identity in connection with a variety of puzzles and problems that are foundational to the very subject matter of philosophy of language and linguistics.1 Kaplan’s attention to words is thus to be applauded. And there is no doubt that his discussion contains many (...) useful insights. Nevertheless, we find his picture deeply flawed for a variety of crosscutting reasons. Our aim in this paper is to further advance an understanding of the nature of words, both by remedying the problems with Kaplan’s account, and also by achieving a suitable perspective on what the metaphysical investigation of word identity can hope to achieve. Our discussion divides into four parts. In Part One, we examine and critique Kaplan’s discussion of a contrast integral to his own account: that between the type-token and the stage-continuant conceptions of words. In Part Two, we present three constraints on any account of words and two further themes in Kaplan’s discussion central to his conception of words – the role of repetition and the constitutive authority of intentions. While these ideas have laudable motivations, we argue they are far from the best way of making good on the insights that drive them. The final two sections take a skeptical turn. In Part Three, we express doubt about Kaplan’s presumption of the importance of what he calls ‘common currency names’, thus raising a suspicion that he may be in pursuit of chimera. Finally, in Part Four, we express pessimism about whether interesting answers to question above will be forthcoming, and suggest that the legitimacy of our word ontology need not depend on the availability of such answers. Along the way, we tease apart a number of metaphysical questions in the vicinity of the topic of word individuation – questions that are often not disentangled – and consider how the discussion of the previous parts bears on them.. (shrink)
The principle of universal instantiation plays a pivotal role both in the derivation of intensional paradoxes such as Prior’s paradox and Kaplan’s paradox and the debate between necessitism and contingentism. We outline a distinctively free logical approach to the intensional paradoxes and note how the free logical outlook allows one to distinguish two different, though allied themes in higher-order necessitism. We examine the costs of this solution and compare it with the more familiar ramificationist approaches to higher-order logic. Our assessment (...) of both approaches is largely pessimistic, and we remain reluctantly inclined to take Prior’s and Kaplan’s derivations at face value. (shrink)
How should a group with different opinions (but the same values) make decisions? In a Bayesian setting, the natural question is how to aggregate credences: how to use a single credence function to naturally represent a collection of different credence functions. An extension of the standard Dutch-book arguments that apply to individual decision-makers recommends that group credences should be updated by conditionalization. This imposes a constraint on what aggregation rules can be like. Taking conditionalization as a basic constraint, we gather (...) lessons from the established work on credence aggregation, and extend this work with two new impossibility results. We then explore contrasting features of two kinds of rules that satisfy the constraints we articulate: one kind uses fixed prior credences, and the other uses geometric averaging, as opposed to arithmetic averaging. We also prove a new characterisation result for geometric averaging. Finally we consider applications to neighboring philosophical issues, including the epistemology of disagreement. (shrink)
In general, a given object could have been different in certain respects. For example, the Great Pyramid could have been somewhat shorter or taller; the Mona Lisa could have had a somewhat different pattern of colours; an ordinary table could have been made of a somewhat different quantity of wood. But there seem to be limits. It would be odd to suppose that the Great Pyramid could have been thimble-sized; that the Mona Lisa could have had the pattern of colours (...) that actually characterizes The Scream; or that the table could have been made of the very quantity of wood that in fact made some other table. However, there are puzzling arguments that purport to show that so long as an object is capable of being somewhat different in some respect, it is capable of being radically different in that respect. These arguments rely on two tempting thoughts: first, that an object’s capacity for moderate variation is a non-contingent matter, and second, that what is possibly possible is simply possible. This book systematically investigates competing strategies for resolving these puzzles, and defends one of them. Along the way it engages with foundational questions about the metaphysics of modality. (shrink)
Suppose the world is chancy. The worry arises that most ordinary counterfactuals are false. This paper examines David Lewis' strategy for rescuing such counterfactuals, and argues that it is highly problematic.
Many defend the thesis that when someone knows p, they couldn’t easily have been wrong about p. But the notion of easy possibility in play is relatively undertheorized. One structural idea in the literature, the principle of Counterfactual Closure (CC), connects easy possibility with counterfactuals: if it easily could have happened that p, and if p were the case, then q would be the case, it follows that it easily could have happened that q. We first argue that while CC (...) is false, there is a true restriction of it to cases involving counterfactual dependence on a coin flip. The failure of CC falsifies a model where the easy possibilities are counterfactually similar to actuality. Next, we show that extant normality models, where the easy possibilities are the sufficiently normal ones, are incompatible with the restricted CC thesis involving coin flips. Next, we develop a new kind of normality theory that can accommodate the restricted version of CC. This new theory introduces a principle of Counterfactual Contamination, which says roughly that any world is fairly abnormal if at that world very abnormal events counterfactually depend on a coin flip. Finally, we explain why coin flips and other related events have a special status. A central take home lesson is that the correct principle in the vicinity of Safety is importantly normality-theoretic rather than (as it is usually conceived) similarity-theoretic. (shrink)
Inheritance is the principle that deontic `ought' is closed under entailment. This paper is about a tension that arises in connection with Inheritance. More specifically, it is about two observations that pull in opposite directions. One of them raises questions about the validity of Inheritance, while the other appears to provide strong support for it. We argue that existing approaches to deontic modals fail to provide us with an adequate resolution of this tension. In response, we develop a positive analysis, (...) and show that this proposal provides a satisfying account of our intuitions. (shrink)
The argument is not, however, problem-free. First: while the meaning of s might not guarantee a verifying state of affairs, mightn’t the fact of one’s believing that s is true guarantee a verifying state of affairs? And mightn’t this fact be exploited to secure knowledge of truths that are deeply contingent? Second: the argument seems to rely on the principle that if I can conceive that not P is actually the case, then I do not know that P. But it (...) is generally agreed that a knowledge-conferring warrant for some P need not offer a watertight guarantee of P and thus need not render it inconceivable that the actual world falsifies P. Why then require such a guarantee when it comes to priori warrant? The first objection is that a guarantee of truth need not come from semantics. The second is that no such guarantee is required for a priori knowledge. I shall be exploring both of these ideas in what follows. (shrink)
We pose and resolve several vexing decision theoretic puzzles. Some are variants of existing puzzles, such as 'Trumped' (Arntzenius and McCarthy 1997), 'Rouble trouble' (Arntzenius and Barrett 1999), 'The airtight Dutch book' (McGee 1999), and 'The two envelopes puzzle' (Broome 1995). Others are new. A unified resolution of the puzzles shows that Dutch book arguments have no force in infinite cases. It thereby provides evidence that reasonable utility functions may be unbounded and that reasonable credence functions need not be countably (...) additive. The resolution also shows that when infinitely many decisions are involved, the difference between making the decisions simultaneously and making them sequentially can be the difference between riches and ruin. Finally, the resolution reveals a new way in which the ability to make binding commitments can save perfectly rational agents from sure losses. (shrink)
In his recent book, Daniel Korman contrasts ontological conservatives with permissivists and eliminativists about ontology. Roughly speaking, conservatives admit the existence of ‘ordinary objects' like trees, dogs, and snowballs, but deny the existence of ‘extraordinary objects', like composites of trees and dogs. Eliminativists, on the other hand, deny many or all ordinary objects, while permissivists accept both ordinary and extraordinary objects. Our aim in this paper is to outline some of our reasons for being drawn to permissivism, as well as (...) some of our misgivings about conservative metaphysics. In the first section, we discuss a tempting epistemic line of argument against conservatism. This isn’t a line of argument we find especially promising. Our most basic complaint against conservatism is not that conservatism has poor epistemic standing even if true, but instead that conservatism is weird. We develop this thought in the second part of the paper. In the final section we discuss some larger methodological issues about the project of ontology. (shrink)
The problem of evil is the most prominent argument against the existence of God. Skeptical theists contend that it is not a good argument. Their reasons for this contention vary widely, involving such notions as CORNEA, epistemic appearances, 'gratuitous' evils, 'levering' evidence, and the representativeness of goods. We aim to dispel some confusions about these notions, in particular by clarifying their roles within a probabilistic epistemology. In addition, we develop new responses to the problem of evil from both the phenomenal (...) conception of evidence and the knowledge-first view of evidence. (shrink)
What ought one to do, epistemically speaking, when faced with a disagreement? Faced with this question, one naturally hopes for an answer that is principled, general, and intuitively satisfying. We want to argue that this is a vain hope. Our claim is that a satisfying answer will prove elusive because of non-transparency: that there is no condition such that we are always in a position to know whether it obtains. When we take seriously that there is nothing, including our own (...) minds, to which we have assured access, the familiar project of formulating epistemic norms is destabilized. In this paper, we will show how this plays out in the special case of disagreement. But we believe that a larger lesson can ultimately be extracted from our discussion: namely, that non-transparency threatens our hope for fully satisfying epistemic norms in general. (shrink)
In his seminal paper 'Assertion', Robert Stalnaker distinguishes between the semantic content of a sentence on an occasion of use and the content asserted by an utterance of that sentence on that occasion. While in general the assertoric content of an utterance is simply its semantic content, the mechanisms of conversation sometimes force the two apart. Of special interest in this connection is one of the principles governing assertoric content in the framework, one according to which the asserted content ought (...) to be identical at each world in the context set. In this paper, we present a problem for Stalnaker's meta-semantic framework, by challenging the plausibility of the Uniformity principle. We argue that the interaction of the framework with facts about epistemic accessibility - in particular, failures of epistemic transparency - cause problems for the Uniformity principle and thus for Stalnaker's framework more generally. (shrink)
David Builes presents a paradox concerning how confident you should be that any given member of an infinite collection of fair coins landed heads, conditional on the information that they were all flipped and only finitely many of them landed heads. We argue that if you should have any conditional credence at all, it should be 1/2.
Famous results by David Lewis show that plausible-sounding constraints on the probabilities of conditionals or evaluative claims lead to unacceptable results, by standard probabilistic reasoning. Existing presentations of these results rely on stronger assumptions than they really need. When we strip these arguments down to a minimal core, we can see both how certain replies miss the mark, and also how to devise parallel arguments for other domains, including epistemic “might,” probability claims, claims about comparative value, and so on. A (...) popular reply to Lewis's results is to claim that conditional claims, or claims about subjective value, lack truth conditions. For this strategy to have a chance of success, it needs to give up basic structural principles about how epistemic states can be updated—in a way that is strikingly parallel to the commitments of the project of dynamic semantics. (shrink)
The concept of being in a position to know is an increasingly popular member of the epistemologist’s toolkit. Some have used it as a basis for an account of propositional justification. Others, following Timothy Williamson, have used it as a vehicle for articulating interesting luminosity and anti-luminosity theses. It is tempting to think that while knowledge itself does not obey any closure principles, being in a position to know does. For example, if one knows both p and ‘If p then (...) q’, but one dies or gets distracted before being able to perform a modus ponens on these items of knowledge and for that reason one does not know q, one is still plausibly in a position to know q. It is also tempting to suppose that, while one does not know all logical truths, one is nevertheless in a position to know every logical truth. Putting these temptations together, we get the view that being in a position to know has a normal modal logic. A recent literature has begun to investigate whether it is a good idea to give in to these twin temptations—in particular the first one. That literature assumes very naturally that one is in a position to know everything one knows and that one is not in a position to know things that one cannot know. It has succeeded in showing that, given the modest closure condition that knowledge is closed under conjunction elimination, being a position to know cannot satisfy the so-called K axiom of normal modal logics. In this paper, we explore the question of the normality of the logic of being in a position to know in a more far-reaching and systematic way. Assuming that being in a position to know entails the possibility of knowing and that knowing entails being in a position to know, we can demonstrate radical failures of normality without assuming any closure principles at all for knowledge. Moreover, the failure of normality cannot be laid at the door of the K axiom for knowledge, since the standard principle NEC of necessitation also fails for being in a position to know. After laying out and explaining our results, we briefly survey the coherent options that remain. (shrink)
[John Hawthorne] We examine some well-known disjunctivist projects in the philosophy of perception, mainly in a critical vein. Our discussion is divided into four parts. Following some introductory remarks, we examine in part two the link between object-dependent contents and disjunctivism. In part three, we explore the disjunctivist's use of discriminability facts as a basis for understanding experience. In part four, we examine an interesting argument for disjunctivism that has been offered by Michael Martin. /// [Scott Sturgeon] The paper aims (...) to do five things: sketch the backbone of disjunctivism about visual experience, explore the view of our title, defend a version of that view from two objections, press two more objections of my own, and sketch a more radical variety of disjunctivism which avoids much of the bother. (shrink)
We think we have lots of substantial knowledge about the future. But contemporary wisdom has it that indeterminism prevails in such a way that just about any proposition about the future has a non-zero objective chance of being false.2, 3 What should one do about this? One, pessimistic, reaction is scepticism about knowledge of the future. We think this should be something of a last resort, especially since this scepticism is likely to infect alleged knowledge of the present and past. (...) One anti-sceptical strategy is to pin our hopes on determinism, conceding that knowledge of the future is unavailable in an indeterministic world. This is not satisfying either: we would rather not be hostage to empirical fortune in the way that this strategy recommends. A final strategy, one that we shall explore in this paper, is one of reconciliation: knowledge of a proposition is compatible with a subject’s belief having a non-zero objective chance of error.4 Following Williamson, we are interested in tying knowledge to the presence or absence of error in close cases, and so we shall explore the connections between knowledge and objective chance within such a framework. We don’t want to get tangled up here in complications involved in attempting to formulate a necessary and sufficient condition for knowledge in terms of safety. Instead, we will assume the following rough and ready necessary condition: a subject knows P only if she could not easily have falsely believed P.5 Assuming that easiness is to be spelt.. (shrink)
Some have argued for a division of epistemic labor in which mathematicians supply truths and philosophers supply their necessity. We argue that this is wrong: mathematics is committed to its own necessity. Counterfactuals play a starring role.
In this paper, we propose a novel account of desire reports, i.e. sentences of the form 'S wants p'. Our theory is partly motivated by Phillips-Brown's (2021) observation that subjects can desire things even if those things aren't best by the subject's lights. That is, being best isn't necessary for being desired. We compare our proposal to existing theories, and show that it provides a neat account of the central phenomenon.
This is the most comprehensive book ever published on philosophical methodology. A team of thirty-eight of the world's leading philosophers present original essays on various aspects of how philosophy should be and is done. The first part is devoted to broad traditions and approaches to philosophical methodology. The entries in the second part address topics in philosophical methodology, such as intuitions, conceptual analysis, and transcendental arguments. The third part of the book is devoted to essays about the interconnections between philosophy (...) and neighbouring fields, including those of mathematics, psychology, literature and film, and neuroscience. (shrink)