In this paper, I take a critical look at Adler's conceptual argument against doxastic voluntarism in his book, Belief's Own Ethics. In making his case, Adler defends evidentialism as the true version of how beliefs are acquired. That is, the will has no direct influence on belief. After a careful exposition of the argument itself, focus is placed on Adler's response to a particularly troubling objection to the form of evidentialism that results: Can evidentialism allow that doubt may be simultaneous (...) with belief? It is in Adler's response that I find concessions that cripple his argument and offer new life to future defenses of doxastic voluntarism. In particular, his belief/confidence and weight of evidence/force of evidence distinctions result in inconsistency. If that inconsistency can be successfully demonstrated, the distinctions and the argument fall. (shrink)
The nature of the information content of declarative sentences is a central topic in the philosophy of language. The natural view that a sentence like "John loves Mary" contains information in which two individuals occur as constituents is termed the naive theory, and is one that has been abandoned by most contemporary scholars. This theory was refuted originally by philosopher Gottlob Frege. His argument that the naive theory did not work is termed Frege's puzzle, and his rival account of information (...) content is termed the orthodox theory. In this detailed study, Nathan Salmon defends a version of the naive theory and presents a proposal for its extension that provides a better picture of information content than the orthodox theory gives. He argues that a great deal of what has generally been taken for granted in the philosophy of language over the past few decades is either mistaken or unsupported, and consequently, much current research is focused on the wrong set of questions. Salmon dissolves Frege's puzzle as it is usually formulated and demonstrates how it can be reconstructed and strengthened to yield a more powerful objection to the naive theory. He then defends the naive theory against the new Frege puzzle by presenting an idea that yields both a surprisingly rich and powerful extension of the naive theory and a better picture of information content than that of the original orthodox theory. Nathan Salmon is Professor of Philosophy, University of California at Santa Barbara. A Bradford Book. (shrink)
Changing our minds isn't easy. Even when we recognize our views are disputed by intelligent and informed people, we rarely doubt our rightness. Why is this so? How can we become more open-minded, putting ourselves in a better position to tolerate conflict, advance collective inquiry, and learn from differing perspectives in a complex world? -/- Nathan Ballantyne defends the indispensable role of epistemology in tackling these issues. For early modern philosophers, the point of reflecting on inquiry was to understand (...) how our beliefs are often distorted by prejudice and self-interest, and to improve the foundations of human knowledge. Ballantyne seeks to recover and modernize this classical tradition by vigorously defending an interdisciplinary approach to epistemology, blending philosophical theorizing with insights from the social and cognitive sciences. -/- Many of us need tools to help us think more circumspectly about our controversial views. Ballantyne develops a method for distinguishing between our reasonable and unreasonable opinions, in light of evidence about bias, information overload, and rival experts. This method guides us to greater intellectual openness--in the spirit of skeptics from Socrates to Montaigne to Bertrand Russell--making us more inclined to admit that sometimes we don't have the right answers. With vibrant prose and fascinating examples from science and history, Ballantyne shows how epistemology can help us know our limits. (shrink)
Epistemic trespassers judge matters outside their field of expertise. Trespassing is ubiquitous in this age of interdisciplinary research and recognizing this will require us to be more intellectually modest.
Salmon's book is considered by some to be a classic in the philosophy of language movement known variously as the New Theory of Reference or the Direct Reference Theory, as well as in the metaphysics of essentialism that is related to this philosophy of language.
The concept of a proposition is important in several areas of philosophy and central to the philosophy of language. This collection of readings investigates many different philosophical issues concerning the nature of propositions and the ways they have been regarded through the years. Reflecting both the history of the topic and the range of contemporary views, the book includes articles from Bertrand Russell, Gottlob Frege, the Russell-Frege Correspondence, Alonzo Church, David Kaplan, John Perry, Saul Kripke, Hilary Putnam, Mark Richard, Scott (...) Soames, and Nathan Salmon. (shrink)
A key question has been underexplored in the literature on conscientious objection: if a physician is required to perform ‘medical activities,’ what is a medical activity? This paper explores the question by employing a teleological evaluation of medicine and examining the analogy of military conscripts, commonly cited in the conscientious objection debate. It argues that physicians (and other healthcare professionals) can only be expected to perform and support medical acts – acts directed towards their patients’ health. That is, physicians cannot (...) be forced to provide or support services that are not medical in nature, even if such activities support other socially desirable pursuits. This does not necessarily mean that medical professionals cannot or should not provide non-medical services, but only that they are under no obligation to provide them. (shrink)
Two theses are central to recent work on the epistemology of disagreement: Conciliationism:?In a revealed peer disagreement over P, each thinker should give at least some weight to her peer's attitude. Uniqueness:?For any given proposition and total body of evidence, the evidence fully justifies exactly one level of confidence in the proposition. 1This paper is the product of full and equal collaboration between its authors. Does Conciliationism commit one to Uniqueness? Thomas Kelly 2010 has argued that it does. After some (...) scene-setting (?1), in ?2 we explain and criticize Kelly's argument, thereby defeating his larger argument that Conciliationism deserves no dialectical special treatment. But we argue further that Conciliationists are committed to a disjunction, one of whose disjuncts is Uniqueness, that amounts to an ?extremely strong and unobvious position? (??3?4). If we are correct, theorists should not treat Conciliationism as a default position in debates about the epistemic significance of disagreement. (shrink)
Two theses figure centrally in work on the epistemology of disagreement: Equal Weight (‘EW’) and Uniqueness (‘U’). According to EW, you should give precisely as much weight to the attitude of a disagreeing epistemic peer as you give to your own attitude. U has it that, for any given proposition and total body of evidence, some doxastic attitude is the one the evidence makes rational (justifies) toward that proposition. Although EW has received considerable discussion, the case for U has not (...) been critically evaluated. Endorsing U, we argue, commits one to the highly controversial thesis that whatever fixes your rational attitudes can do so only by fixing what evidence you have. This commitment imposes a relatively demanding requirement on justified belief in U, one that we argue is not satisfied by what is currently the strongest available case for U, due to Roger White . Our challenge to U makes more trouble for its proponents than do the worries about U expressed by Gideon Rosen  and Thomas Kelly . Moreover, if Kelly  is correct in thinking that EW “carries with it a commitment to” U—a claim which we accept for reasons similar to Kelly’s but is beyond this paper’s scope (but see Ballantyne and Coffman [forthcoming])—then our challenge to U bears importantly on EW: to the extent that our challenge to U succeeds, EW also suffers. (shrink)
The Counterfactual Comparative Account of Harm says that an event is overall harmful for someone if and only if it makes her worse off than she otherwise would have been. I defend this account from two common objections.
ABSTRACT: Most of what we believe comes to us from the word of others, but we do not always believe what we are told. We often reject thinkers' reports by attributing biases to them. We may call this debunking. In this essay, I consider how debunking might work and then examine whether, and how often, it can help to preserve rational belief in the face of disagreement.
In mid-2019, the controversy regarding South African runner Caster Semenya’s eligibility to participate in competitions against other female runners culminated in a Court of Arbitration for Sport judgement. Semenya possessed high endogenous testosterone levels (arguably a performance advantage), secondary to a disorder of sexual development. In this commentary, Aristotelean teleology is used to defend the existence of ‘male’ and ‘female’ as discrete categories. It is argued that once the athlete’s sex is established, they should be allowed to compete in the (...) category of their sex without obligatory medical treatment. Indeed, other athletes who possess advantageous genetic or phenotypic traits that fall outside of the human norm have been allowed to compete as humans without restraint. In both cases, if an athlete possesses the essential attributes of being a human or being male or female they should be permitted to compete in those respective categories; athletes’ eligibilities should not be based upon accidental attributes. (shrink)
Some prominent scientists and philosophers have stated openly that moral and political considerations should influence whether we accept or promulgate scientific theories. This widespread view has significantly influenced the development, and public perception, of intelligence research. Theories related to group differences in intelligence are often rejected a priori on explicitly moral grounds. Thus the idea, frequently expressed by commentators on science, that science is “self-correcting”—that hypotheses are simply abandoned when they are undermined by empirical evidence—may not be correct in all (...) contexts. In this paper, documentation spanning from the early 1970s to the present is collected, which reveals the influence of scientists’ moral and political commitments on the study of intelligence. It is suggested that misrepresenting findings in science to achieve desirable social goals will ultimately harm both science and society. (shrink)
In a very short time, it is likely that we will identify many of the genetic variants underlying individual differences in intelligence. We should be prepared for the possibility that these variants are not distributed identically among all geographic populations, and that this explains some of the phenotypic differences in measured intelligence among groups. However, some philosophers and scientists believe that we should refrain from conducting research that might demonstrate the (partly) genetic origin of group differences in IQ. Many scholars (...) view academic interest in this topic as inherently morally suspect or even racist. The majority of philosophers and social scientists take it for granted that all population differences in intelligence are due to environmental factors. The present paper argues that the widespread practice of ignoring or rejecting research on intelligence differences can have unintended negative consequences. Social policies predicated on environmentalist theories of group differences may fail to achieve their aims. Large swaths of academic work in both the humanities and social sciences assume the truth of environmentalism and are vulnerable to being undermined. We have failed to work through the moral implications of group differences to prepare for the possibility that they will be shown to exist. (shrink)
Many philosophers think that punishment is intentionally harmful and that this makes it especially hard to morally justify. Explanations for the latter intuition often say questionable things about the moral significance of the intent to harm. I argue that there’s a better way to explain this intuition.
Rather infamously, Kit Fine provided a series of counter‐examples which purport to show that attempts to understand essence in terms of metaphysical necessity are ‘fundamentally misguided’. Here, my aim is to put forward a new version of modalism that is, I argue, immune to Fine's counter‐examples. The core of this new modalist account is a sparseness restriction, such that an object's essential properties are those sparse properties it has in every world in which it exists. After first motivating this sparseness (...) restriction, I proceed to show how the resulting sparse modalism circumvents Fine's original counter‐examples. After dismissing a potential problem concerning the membership relation, I conclude that, as at least one form of modalism is viable, the project of understanding essence in terms of metaphysical necessity is not so fundamentally misguided after all. (shrink)
Recent work on the nature of luck widely endorses the thesis that an event is good or bad luck for an individual only if it is significant for that individual. In this paper, I explore this thesis, showing that it raises questions about interests, well-being, and the philosophical uses of luck. In Sect. 1, I examine several accounts of significance, due to Pritchard (2005), Coffman (2007), and Rescher (1995). Then in Sect. 2 I consider what some theorists want to ‘do’ (...) with luck, taking important examples from epistemology (explaining Gettier-style examples) and political philosophy (offering a rationale for the just distribution of resources in society), while suggesting implications for significance. Drawing together lessons from Sects. 1 and 2, I develop a new account of significance in Sect. 3 before concluding with reflections on the debate in Sect. 4. (shrink)
David Lewis and Peter van Inwagen have claimed that there are no “knockdown” arguments in philosophy. Their claim appears to be at odds with common philosophical practice: philosophers often write as though their conclusions are established or proven and that the considerations offered for these conclusions are decisive. In this paper, I examine some questions raised by Lewis’s and van Inwagen’s contention. What are knockdown arguments? Are there any in philosophy? If not, why not? These questions concern the nature of (...) the philosophical enterprise and our answers have implications for the limits on the attitudes of informed, rational thinkers. (shrink)
The wrong kind of reason (WKR) problem is a problem for attempts to analyze normative properties using only facts about the balance of normative reasons, a style of analysis on which the ‘Reasons First’ programme depends. I argue that this problem cannot be solved if the orthodox view of reasons is true --- that is, if each normative reason is numerically identical with some fact, proposition, or state-of-affairs. That’s because solving the WKR problem requires completely distinguishing between the right- and (...) wrong-kind reasons for an attitude. I argue that some facts give both right- and wrong-kind reasons for an attitude. Consequently, no such distinction between the two types of reasons is complete if reasons are facts or the like. I conclude by suggesting that reasons and facts are related by constitution, not identity. (shrink)
Discussions of political obligation and political authority have long focused on the idea that the commands of genuine authorities constitute content-independent reasons. Despite its centrality in these debates, the notion of content-independence is unclear and controversial, with some claiming that it is incoherent, useless, or increasingly irrelevant. I clarify content-independence by focusing on how reasons can depend on features of their source or container. I then solve the long-standing puzzle of whether the fact that laws can constitute content-independent reasons is (...) consistent with the fact that some laws must fail to bind due to their egregiously unjust content. Finally I defend my understanding of content-independence against challenges and show why it retains a place of special importance for questions about the law and political obligation. Content-independence highlights that it is some feature of the law or law-making process in general that is supposed to generate moral obligations for citizens, not the merits of particular laws. (shrink)
Abstract Both parties in the active philosophical debate concerning the conceptual character of perception trace their roots back to Kant's account of sensible intuition in the Critique of Pure Reason. This striking fact can be attributed to Kant's tendency both to assert and to deny the involvement of our conceptual capacities in sensible intuition. He appears to waver between these two positions in different passages, and can thus seem thoroughly confused on this issue. But this is not, in fact, the (...) case, for, as I will argue, the appearance of contradiction in his account stems from the failure of some commentators to pay sufficient attention to Kant's developmental approach to philosophy. Although he begins by asserting the independence of intuition, Kant proceeds from this nonconceptualist starting point to reveal a deeper connection between intuitions and concepts. On this reading, Kant's seemingly conflicting claims are actually the result of a careful and deliberate strategy for gradually convincing his readers of the conceptual nature of perception. (shrink)
It is commonly thought that logic, whatever it may be, is normative. While accounting for the normativity of logic is a challenge for any view of logic, in this paper I argue that it is particularly problematic for certain types of logical pluralists, due to what I call the normative problem for logical pluralism. I introduce the NPLP, distinguish it from other problems that logical pluralists may face, and show that it is unsolvable for one prominent type of logical pluralism.
Metaphysics, Mathematics, and Meaning brings together Nathan Salmon's influential papers on topics in the metaphysics of existence, non-existence, and fiction; modality and its logic; strict identity, including personal identity; numbers and numerical quantifiers; the philosophical significance of Godel's Incompleteness theorems; and semantic content and designation. Including a previously unpublished essay and a helpful new introduction to orient the reader, the volume offers rich and varied sustenance for philosophers and logicians.
While it is tempting to suppose that an act has moral worth just when and because it is motivated by sufficient moral reasons, philosophers have, largely, come to doubt this analysis. Doubt is rooted in two claims. The first is that some facts can motivate a given act in multiple ways, not all of which are consistent with moral worth. The second is the orthodox view that normative reasons are facts. I defend the tempting analysis by proposing and defending a (...) heterodox account of both normative and motivating reasons that is inspired by Donald Davidson’s primary reasons. We should adopt the heterodox view, I argue, because it addresses an overlooked but fatal defect in the orthodox conception of reasons, of which challenges to the tempting analysis are a special case. (shrink)
I argue for two principles by combining which we can construct a sound cosmological argument. The first is that for any true proposition p's if ‘there is an explanation for p's truth’ is consistent then there is an explanation for p's truth. The second is a modified version of the principle that for any class, if there is an explanation for the non-emptiness of that class, then there is at least one non-member of that class which causes it not to (...) be empty. (shrink)
You have a body, but you are a soul or self. Without your body, you could still exist. Your body could be and perhaps is outlasted by the immaterial substance which is your soul or self. Thus the substance dualist. Most substance dualists are Cartesians. The self, they suppose, is essentially conscious: it cannot exist unless it thinks or wills or has experiences. In this paper I sketch out a different form of substance dualism. I suggest that it is not (...) consciousness but another immaterial feature which is essential to the self, a feature in one way analogous to a non-dispositional taste. Each self has moreover a different feature of this general kind. If this is right then simple and straightforward answers are available to some questions which prove troublesome to the Cartesian, consciousness-requiring type of substance dualist. I mean the questions, How can the self exist in dreamless sleep?, What distinguishes two simultaneously existing selves, and What makes a self the same self as a self which exists at some other time? (shrink)
Some people have supposed that utility is good in itself, non-in-strumentally good, as distinct from good because conducive to other good things. And in modern versions of this view, utility often means want-satisfaction, as distinct from pleasure or happiness. For your want that p to be satisfied, is it necessary that you know or believe that p, or sufficient merely that p is true? However that question is answered, there are problems with the view that want-satisfaction is a non-instrumental good. (...) What if you want something only because you have a false belief? What if the time at which you want that p is fifty or five hundred years before the time to which p itself refers? To meet these difficulties, qualifications have to be introduced, and much has been written about how exactly these qualifications are to be framed.1 There is however what may be a rather more serious objection to the view that want-satisfaction is a non-instrumental good, or rather to the combination of that view with the principle that it is sufficient for your want that p to be satisfied simply that p is true. The objection is that this combination forces you to give undue weight to the mere acquisition of desires when you come to make judgements about changes in the value of things. It forces you to say that for any true proposition p, which initially you do not want to be true, your mere acquisition of a desire that p will, other things being equal, make the world better. Non-instrumental value can be increased merely by multiplying desires, even though everything else remains the same. Surely, however, improving the world is not as easy as that. (shrink)
I defend the widely-held view that morally worthy action need not be motivated by a desire to promote rightness as such. Some have recently come to reject this view, arguing that desires for rightness as such are necessary for avoiding a certain kind of luck thought incompatible with morally worthy action. I show that those who defend desires for rightness as such on the basis of this argument misunderstand the relationship between moral worth and the kind of luck that their (...) argument employs. Consequently, the argument provides no reason to doubt the popular view that a desire for rightness as such is no part of virtue. I conclude by suggesting that a family of worries about merely accidentally right action presuppose one side of the recent debate about objectivism and perspectivism about moral rightness. (shrink)
Some philosophers think that the challenge of justifying punishment can be met by a theory that emphasizes the expressive character of punishment. A particular type of theories of this sort - call it Expressive Retributivism [ER] - combines retributivist and expressivist considerations. These theories are retributivist since they justify punishment as an intrinsically appropriate response to wrongdoing, as something wrongdoers deserve, but the expressivist element in these theories seeks to correct for the traditional obscurity of retributivism. Retributivists often rely on (...) appeals to controversial intuitions involving obscure concepts. While retributive intuitions can be compelling, some worry that the justificatory challenge cannot be met merely by appealing to them. ER tries to enhance the clarity and justificatory power of these intuitions and the concepts they invoke by appealing to an expressive conception of punishment. I argue that these theories fail to justify punishment and that there is reason to think that they cannot, in principle, justify punishment. (shrink)
Some have attempted to explain why it appears that action based on deferential moral belief lacks moral worth by appealing to claims about an attitude that is difficult to acquire through testimony, which theorists have called “moral understanding”. I argue that this state is at least partly non-cognitive. I begin by employing case-driven judgments to undermine the assumption that I argue is responsible for the strangeness of deferential moral belief: the assumption that if an agent knows that some fact gives (...) them a moral reason to act in some way, then they’re in a position to act that way for the moral reason given by that fact. I then argue that cases from non-moral epistemology concerning properly-based belief give us independent reason to reject this assumption and conclude by sketching a Davidson-inspired account of normative reasons that explains why acting for moral reasons requires the right non-cognitive state, which is worth calling a kind of moral understanding. (shrink)
Throughout his career, Derek Parfit made the bold suggestion, at various times under the heading of the "Normativity Objection," that anyone in possession of normative concepts is in a position to know, on the basis of their competence with such concepts alone, that reductive realism in ethics is not even possible. Despite the prominent role that the Normativity Objection plays in Parfit's non-reductive account of the nature of normativity, when the objection hasn't been ignored, it's been criticized and even derided. (...) We argue that the exclusively negative attention that the objection has received has been a mistake. On our reading, Parfit's Normativity Objection poses a serious threat to reductivism, as it exposes the uneasy relationship between our a priori knowledge of a range of distinctly normative truths and the typical package of semantic commitments that reductivists have embraced since the Kripkean revolution. (shrink)
ABSTRACTMany philosophers have suggested that disagreement is good grounds for scepticism. One response says that disagreement-motivated scepticism can be mitigated to some extent by the thesis that philosophical disputes are often verbal, not genuine. I consider the implications of this anti-sceptical strategy, arguing that it trades one kind of scepticism for others. I conclude with suggestions for further investigation of the epistemic significance of the nature of philosophical disagreement.
I demonstrate that a "speech act" theory of meaning for imperatives is—contra a dominant position in philosophy and linguistics—theoretically desirable. A speech act-theoretic account of the meaning of an imperative !φ is characterized, broadly, by the following claims. -/- LINGUISTIC MEANING AS USE !φ’s meaning is a matter of the speech act an utterance of it conventionally functions to express—what a speaker conventionally uses it to do (its conventional discourse function, CDF). -/- IMPERATIVE USE AS PRACTICAL !φ's CDF is to (...) express a practical (non-representational) state of mind—one concerning an agent's preferences and plans, rather than her beliefs. -/- Opposed to speech act accounts is a preponderance of views which deny that a sentence's linguistic meaning is a matter of what speech act it is used to perform, or its CDF. On such accounts, meaning is, instead, a matter of "static" properties of the sentence—e.g., how it depicts the world as being (or, more neutrally, the properties of a model-theoretic object with which the semantic value of the sentence co-varies). On one version of a static account, an imperative 'shut the window!' might, for instance, depict the world as being such that the window must be shut. -/- Static accounts are traditionally motivated against speech act-theoretic accounts by appeal to supposedly irremediable explanatory deficiencies in the latter. Whatever a static account loses in saying (prima facie counterintuitively) that an imperative conventionally represents, or expresses a picture of the world, is said to be offset by its ability to explain a variety of phenomena for which speech act-theoretic accounts are said to lack good explanations (even, in many cases, the bare ability to offer something that might meet basic criteria on what a good explanation should be like). -/- I aim to turn the tables on static accounts. I do this by showing that speech act accounts are capable of giving explanations of phenomena which fans of static accounts have alleged them unable to give. Indeed, for a variety of absolutely fundamental phenomena having to do with the conventional meaning of imperatives (and other types of practical language), speech act accounts provide natural and theoretically satisfying explanations, where a representational account provides none. (shrink)
Recently, Michael Huemer has defended the Principle of Phenomenal Conservatism: If it seems to S that p, then, in the absence of defeaters, S thereby has at least some degree of justification for believing that p. This principle has potentially far-reaching implications. Huemer uses it to argue against skepticism and to defend a version of ethical intuitionism. I employ a reductio to show that PC is false. If PC is true, beliefs can yield justification for believing their contents in cases (...) where, intuitively, they should not be able to do so. I argue that there are cases where a belief that p can behave like an appearance that p and thereby make it seem to one that p. (shrink)
I argue that Davidson's conception of motivating reasons as belief-desire pairs suggests a model of normative reasons for action that is superior to the orthodox conception according to which normative reasons are propositions, facts, or the truth-makers of such facts.
In the transcendental deduction, the central argument of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant seeks to secure the objective validity of our basic categories of thought. He distinguishes objective and subjective sides of this argument. The latter side, the subjective deduction, is normally understood as an investigation of our cognitive faculties. It is identified with Kant’s account of a threefold synthesis involved in our cognition of objects of experience, and it is said to precede and ground Kant’s proof of the (...) validity of the categories in the objective deduction. I challenge this standard reading of the subjective deduction, arguing, first, that there is little textual evidence for it, and, second, that it encourages a problematic conception of how the deduction works. In its place, I present a new reading of the subjective deduction. Rather than being a broad investigation of our cognitive faculties, it should be seen as addressing a specific worry that arises in the course of the objective deduction. The latter establishes the need for a necessary connection between our capacities for thinking and being given objects, but Kant acknowledges that his readers might struggle to comprehend how these seemingly independent capacities are coordinated. Even worse, they might well believe that in asserting this necessary connection, Kant’s position amounts to an implausible subjective idealism. The subjective deduction ismeant to allay these concerns by showing that they rest on a misunderstanding of the relation between these faculties. This new reading of the subjective deduction offers a better fit with Kant’s text. It also has broader implications, for it reveals the more philosophically plausible account of our relation to the world as thinkers that Kant is defending – an account that is largely obscured by the standard reading of the subjective deduction. (shrink)