I defend the principle of Phenomenal Conservatism, on which appearances of all kinds generate at least some justification for belief. I argue that there is no reason for privileging introspection or intuition over perceptual experience as a source of justified belief; that those who deny Phenomenal Conservatism are in a self-defeating position, in that their view cannot be both true and justified; and that thedemand for a metajustification for Phenomenal Conservatism either is an easily met demand, or is an unfair (...) or question-begging one. (shrink)
A four-part series of dialogues between two philosophy students, M and V. The question: is it wrong to eat meat? M and V review the standard arguments plus a few new ones. Part 4 discusses what products one should renounce, the value of abstract theory, why people who accept the arguments often fail to change their behavior, and how vegans should react to non-vegans.
A four-part series of dialogues between two philosophy students, M and V. The question: is it wrong to eat meat? M and V review the standard arguments plus a few new ones. Part 3 discusses the idea that creatures have different degrees of consciousness, the sense that certain animal welfare positions "sound crazy", and the role of empathy in moral judgment.
A four-part series of dialogues between two philosophy students, M and V. The question: is it wrong to eat meat? M and V review the standard arguments plus a few new ones. Part 2 discusses miscellaneous defenses of meat-eating. These include the claim that the consumer is not responsible for wrongs committed by farm workers, that a single individual cannot have any effect on the meat industry, that farm animals are better off living on factory farms than never existing at (...) all, that we can’t be sure animals feel pain, that animals can justly be eaten since they eat each other, that meat-eating is natural, that morality only protects those who can understand morality, that morality only protects members of society, and that only humans possess souls. (shrink)
A four-part series of dialogues between two philosophy students, M and V. The question: is it wrong to eat meat? M and V review the standard arguments plus a few new ones. Part 1 discusses the suffering caused by factory farming, and how one's intelligence affects the badness of suffering.
This book defends a form of ethical intuitionism, according to which (i) there are objective moral truths; (ii) we know some of these truths through a kind of immediate, intellectual awareness, or "intuition"; and (iii) our knowledge of moral truths gives us reasons for action independent of our desires. The author rebuts all the major objections to this theory and shows that the alternative theories about the nature of ethics all face grave difficulties.
Abstract: In earlier work, I argued that individuals have a right to own firearms for personal defense, and that as a result, gun prohibition would be unjustified unless it at least produced benefits many times greater than its costs. Here, I defend that argument against objections posed by Nicholas Dixon and Jeff McMahan to the effect that the right of citizens to be free from gun violence counterbalances the right of self-defense, and that gun prohibition does not violate the right (...) of self-defense because it renders everyone overall safer. (4258 words). (shrink)
The justificatory force of empirical reasoning always depends upon the existence of some synthetic, a priori justification. The reasoner must begin with justified, substantive constraints on both the prior probability of the conclusion and certain conditional probabilities; otherwise, all possible degrees of belief in the conclusion are left open given the premises. Such constraints cannot in general be empirically justified, on pain of infinite regress. Nor does subjective Bayesianism offer a way out for the empiricist. Despite often-cited convergence theorems, subjective (...) Bayesians cannot hold that any empirical hypothesis is ever objectively justified in the relevant sense. Rationalism is thus the only alternative to an implausible skepticism. (shrink)
Debunking skeptics claim that our moral beliefs are formed by processes unsuited to identifying objective facts, such as emotions inculcated by our genes and culture; therefore, they say, even if there are objective moral facts, we probably don’t know them. I argue that the debunking skeptics cannot explain the pervasive trend toward liberalization of values over human history, and that the best explanation is the realist’s: humanity is becoming increasingly liberal because liberalism is the objectively correct moral stance.
I argue that taxation for redistributive purposes is a property rights violation, responding to arguments (due to Nagel, Murphy, Sunstein, and Holmes) claiming that individuals lack ownership of their pretax incomes.
In the practice of jury nullification, a jury votes to acquit a defendant in disregard of the factual evidence, on the grounds that a conviction would result in injustice, either because the law itself is unjust or because its application in the particular case would be unjust. The practice is widely condemned by courts, which strenuously attempt to prevent it. Nevertheless, the arguments against jury nullification are surprisingly weak. I argue that, pursuant to the general ethical duty to avoid causing (...) unjust harms to others, jurors are often morally obligated to disregard the law. (~7400 words). (shrink)
Externalist theories of justification create the possibility of cases in which everything appears to one relevantly similar with respect to two propositions, yet one proposition is justified while the other is not. Internalists find this difficult to accept, because it seems irrational in such a case to affirm one proposition and not the other. The underlying internalist intuition supports a specific internalist theory, Phenomenal Conservatism, on which epistemic justification is conferred by appearances.
Parsimony is a virtue of empirical theories. Is it also a virtue of philosophical theories? I review four contemporary accounts of the virtue of parsimony in empirical theorizing, and consider how each might apply to two prominent appeals to parsimony in the philosophical literature, those made on behalf of physicalism and on behalf of nominalism. None of the accounts of the virtue of parsimony extends naturally to either of these philosophical cases. This suggests that in typical philosophical contexts, ontological simplicity (...) has no evidential value. (shrink)
The essay argues that while there is no general agreement on whether moral realism is true, there is general agreement on at least some of the moral obligations that we have if moral realism is true. Given that moral realism might be true, and given that we know some of the things we ought to do if it is true, we have a reason to do those things. Furthermore, this reason is itself an objective moral reason. Thus, if moral realism (...) might be true, then it is true. (shrink)
I argue that, given evidence of the factors that tend to distort our intuitions, ethical intuitionists should disown a wide range of common moral intuitions, and that they should typically give preference to abstract, formal intuitions over more substantive ethical intuitions. In place of the common sense morality with which intuitionism has traditionally allied, the suggested approach may lead to a highly revisionary normative ethics.
I defend the 'Repugnant' Conclusion that for any possible population of happy people, a population containing a sufficient number of people with lives barely worth living would be better. Four lines of argument converge on this conclusion, and the conclusion has a simple, natural theoretical explanation. The opposition to the Repugnant Conclusion rests on a bare appeal to intuition. This intuition is open to charges of being influenced by multiple distorting factors. Several theories of population ethics have been devised to (...) avoid the Repugnant Conclusion, but each generates even more counterintuitive consequences. The intuition opposing the Repugnant Conclusion is thus among the best candidates for an intuition that should be revised. (shrink)
Jury nullification is justified by the principle that individuals are prima facie ethically obligated to avoid causing unjust harms. Safeguarding justice against unjust laws and punishments of the government is the central function of the jury.
A central problem facing a probabilistic approach to the problem of induction is the difficulty of sufficiently constraining prior probabilities so as to yield the conclusion that induction is cogent. The Principle of Indifference, according to which alternatives are equiprobable when one has no grounds for preferring one over another, represents one way of addressing this problem; however, the Principle faces the well-known problem that multiple interpretations of it are possible, leading to incompatible conclusions. I propose a partial solution to (...) the latter problem, drawing on the notion of explanatory priority. The resulting synthesis of Bayesian and inference-to-best-explanation approaches affords a principled defense of prior probability distributions that support induction. (shrink)
Moore’s paradox supports the principle of “metacoherence”, i.e., that if one categorically believes that P, one is committed to accepting that one knows that P. The principle raises puzzles about how, when one has justification for P, one also has justification for the claim that one knows P. I reject a skeptical answer as well as a bootstrapping answer, and I suggest that we typically have independent justification for the claim that we know P.
We propose that all actual causes are simultaneous with their direct effects, as illustrated by both everyday examples and the laws of physics. We contrast this view with the sequential conception of causation, according to which causes must occur prior to their effects. The key difference between the two views of causation lies in differing assumptions about the mathematical structure of time.
Skeptical hypotheses such as the brain-in-a-vat hypothesis provide extremely poor explanations for our sensory experiences. Because these scenarios accommodate virtually any possible set of evidence, the probability of any given set of evidence on the skeptical scenario is near zero; hence, on Bayesian grounds, the scenario is not well supported by the evidence. By contrast, serious theories make reasonably specific predictions about the evidence and are then well supported when these predictions are satisfied.
Seven proposed accounts of epistemic possibility are criticized, and a new account is proposed, making use of the notion of having justification for dismissing a proposition. The new account explains intuitions about otherwise puzzling cases, upholds plausible general principles about epistemic possibility, and explains the practical import of epistemic modality judgements. It is suggested that judgements about epistemic possibility function to assess which propositions are worthy of further inquiry.
Immigration restrictions violate the prima facie right of potential immigrants not to be subject to harmful coercion. This prima facie right is not neutralized or outweighed by the economic, fiscal, or cultural effects of immigration, nor by the state’s special duties to its own citizens, or to its poorest citizens. Nor does the state have a right to control citizenship conditions in the same way that private clubs may control their membership conditions.
We provide a cognitive analysis of how children represent belief using mental files. We explain why children who pass the false belief test are not aware of the intensionality of belief. Fifty-one 3½- to 7-year old children were familiarized with a dual object, e.g., a ball that rattles and is described as a rattle. They observed how a puppet agent witnessed the ball being put into box 1. In the agent’s absence the ball was taken from box 1, the child (...) was reminded of it being a rattle, and emphasising its being a rattle it was put back into box 1. Then the agent returned, the object was hidden in the experimenter’s hands and removed from box 1, described as a ‘‘rattle,” and transferred to box 2. Children who passed false belief had no problem saying where the puppet would look for the ball. However, in a different condition in which the agent was also shown that the ball was a rattle they erroneously said that the agent would look for the ball in box 1, ignoring the agent’s knowledge of the identity of rattle and ball. Their problems cease with their mastery of second-order beliefs. Problems also vanish when the ball is described not as a rattle but as a thing that rattles. We describe how our theory can account for these data as well as all other relevant data in the literature. (shrink)
Recent results in probability theory have cast doubt on the coherence theory of justification, allegedly showing that coherence cannot produce justification for beliefs in the absence of foundational justification, and that there can be no measure of coherence on which coherence is generally truth-conducive. I argue that the coherentist can reject some of the assumptions on which these theorems depend. Coherence can then be held to produce justification on its own, and truth-conducive measures of coherence can be constructed.
Recent results in probability theory have cast doubt on coherentism, purportedly showing (a) that coherence among a set of beliefs cannot raise their probability unless individual beliefs have some independent credibility, and (b) that no possible measure of coherence makes coherence generally probability-enhancing. I argue that coherentists can reject assumptions on which these theorems depend, and I derive a general condition under which the concurrence of two information sources lacking individual credibility can raise the probability of what they report.
both the initial justification for adopting it and the justification for retaining it provided by seeming memories. This view captures our intuitions about justification in several cases, while none of the alternative views can.
The brain-in-a-vat argument for skepticism is best formulated, not using the closure principle, but using the “Preference Principle,” which states that in order to be justified in believing H on the basis of E, one must have grounds for preferring H over each alternative explanation of E. When the argument is formulated this way, Dretske’s and Klein’s responses to it fail. However, the strengthened argument can be refuted using a direct realist account of perception. For the direct realist, refuting the (...) SIV scenario is not a precondition on knowledge of the external world, and only the direct realist can give a non-circular account of how we know we’re not brains in vats. (shrink)
In The Structure of Empirical Knowledge , Laurence BonJour argues that coherence among a set of empirical beliefs can provide justification for those beliefs, in the sense of rendering them likely to be true. He also repudiates all forms of foundationalism for empirical beliefs, including what he calls "weak foundationalism" (the weakest form of foundationalism he can find). In the following, I will argue that coherence cannot provide any justification for our beliefs in the manner BonJour suggests unless some form (...) of foundational justification is assumed. In other words, the argument that BonJour gives in favor of the thesis that coherence provides a kind of justification succeeds if and only if some beliefs have (at least weak) foundational justification. (shrink)
Trenton Merricks argues that on any reasonable account, warrant must entailtruth. I demonstrate three theses about the properties ofwarrant: (1) Warrant is not unique;there are many properties that satisfy the definition of warrant. (2) Warrant need not entail truth; there are some warrant properties that entailtruthand others that do not. (3) Warrant need not be closed under entailment, even if knowledge is. If knowledge satisfies closure, then some warrant properties satisfy closure while others do not;if knowledge violates closure, then allwarrant (...) properties violate closure. (shrink)
Peter van Inwagen ’s argument for incompatibilism uses a sentential operator, “N”, which can be read as “No one has any choice about the fact that....” I show that, given van Inwagen ’s understanding of the notion of having a choice, the argument is invalid. However, a different interpretation of “N” can be given, such that the argument is clearly valid, the premises remain highly plausible, and the conclusion implies that free will is incompatible with determinism.
Agent-centered epistemic norms direct thinkers to attach different significance to their own epistemically relevant states than they attach to the similar states of others. Thus, if S and T both know, for certain, that S has the intuition that P, this might justify S in believing that P, yet fail to justify T in believing that P. I defend agent-centeredness and explain how an agent-centered theory can accommodate intuitions that seem to favor agent-neutrality.
John DePoe has criticized the self-defeat argument for Phenomenal Conservatism. He argues that acquaintance, rather than appearance, may form the basis for non-inferentially justified beliefs, and that Phenomenal Conservatism conflicts with a central motivation for internalism. I explain how Phenomenal Conservatism and the self-defeat argument may survive these challenges.
Beauty is put to sleep and woken up either once or twice, depending on the flip of a coin; after each waking, she will fall asleep and forget having woken. Upon waking, what should be her credence that the coin came up heads? Some say 1/2; others say 1/3. I propose that evidence supports a theory for you when your having that qualitative evidence would be more likely if the theory were true than if it were false. This view supports (...) the “1/3” answer to the Sleeping Beauty problem. It also has applications to other arguments concerning self-locating beliefs: the Doomsday Argument fails, and the Fine Tuning Argument supports the Multiverse theory, if and only if it would be metaphysically possible for you to exist in a different universe. (shrink)
Phenomenal Conservatism Phenomenal Conservatism is a theory in epistemology that seeks, roughly, to ground justified beliefs in the way things “appear” or “seem” to the subject who holds a belief. The theory fits with an internalistic form of foundationalism—that is, the view that some beliefs are justified non-inferentially (not on the basis of other beliefs), and that […].
Soll der Freizeitkonsum von Drogen wie Marihuana, Kokain, Heroin und LSD einem gesetzlichen Verbot unterliegen? Drogengegner sagen ja. Sie behaupten für gewöhnlich, Drogenkonsum sei sowohl für den Nutzer als auch für die Gesellschaft allgemein äußerst schädlich – vielleicht sogar unmoralisch, und sie glauben, diese Tatsachen seien als Verbotsgrund ausreichend. Freigabebefürworter sagen nein und berufen sich dabei für gewöhnlich auf eines oder mehrere von drei Argumenten: Erstens behaupten einige, Drogenkonsum sei nicht so schädlich, wie Drogengegner meinen, und sei gelegentlich sogar nützlich. (...) Zweitens behaupten einige, Drogenverbote „funktionierten“ nicht, d. h. sie verhinderten den Drogenkonsum nicht besonders wirksam und hätten eine Reihe sehr nachteiliger Folgewirkungen. Schließlich behaupten einige, Drogenverbote seien Unrecht oder verletzten Rechte. -/- Ich unternehme an dieser Stelle nicht den Versuch, all diese Argumente zu besprechen. Stattdessen beschränke ich mich auf die drei Hauptargumente der Drogendebatte: Erstens demjenigen, Drogen solle man aufgrund der Schädigung der Konsumenten verbieten; zweitens, man solle sie verbieten, weil sie außer den Konsumenten noch anderen schadeten; und drittens, man solle sie legalisieren, weil Drogenverbote Rechte verletzten. Ich richte mein Augenmerk auf die moralphilosophischen Fragen, welche diese Argumente aufwerfen, statt auf medizinische oder gesellschaftliche Fragen und werde zeigen, dass die beiden Verbotsargumente scheitern, wogegen das dritte Argument für die Freigabe greift. -/- [This is a German translation of "America's Unjust Drug War". In The New Prohibition, ed. Bill Masters (St. Louis, Mo.: Accurate Press, 2004), p. 133-144.]. (shrink)
Individuals have a prima facie right to own firearms. This right is significant in view both of the role that such ownership plays in the lives of firearms enthusiasts and of the self-defense value of firearms. Nor is this right overridden by the social harms of private gun ownership. These harms have been greatly exaggerated and are probably considerably smaller than the benefits of private gun ownership. And I argue that the harms would have to be at least several times (...) greater than the benefits in order to render gun prohibition permissible. (shrink)