How ought we to go about forming and revising our beliefs, arguing and debating our reasons, and investigating our world? If those questions constitute normative epistemology, then I am interested here in normative metaepistemology: the investigation into how we ought to go about forming and revising our beliefs about how we ought to go about forming and revising our beliefs -- how we ought to argue about how we ought to argue. Such investigations have become urgent of late, for the (...) methodology of epistemology has reached something of a crisis. For analytic epistemology of the last half-century has relied overwhelmingly on intuitions,1 and a growing set of arguments and data has begun to call this reliance on intuition seriously into question (e.g., Weinberg, Nichols, and Stich 2001; Nichols, Stich, and Weinberg 2003; Cummins 1998). Although that method has not been entirely without defenders (BonJour 1998; Bealer 1996; Jackson 1998; Sosa forthcoming; Weatherson 2003), these defenses have not generally risen to the specific challenges leveled by the anti-intuitionist critics. In particular, the critics have attacked specific ways of deploying intuitions, and the defenders have overwhelmingly responded with in-principle defenses of the cogency of appealing to intuition. An analogy here would be someone’s responding to arguments alleging systematic.. (shrink)
Shelley Weinberg argues that the idea of consciousness as a form of non-evaluative self-awareness helps solve some of the thorniest issues in Locke's philosophy: in his philosophical psychology, and his theories of knowledge, personal identity, and moral agency. The model of consciousness set forth here binds these key issues with a common thread.
Having children is probably as old as the first successful organism. It is often done thoughtlessly. This book is an argument for giving procreating some serious thought, and a theory of how, when, and why procreation may be permissible.Rivka Weinberg begins with an analysis of the kind of act procreativity is and why we might be justifiably motivated to engage in it. She then proceeds to argue that, by virtue of our ownership and control of the hazardous material that (...) is our gametes, we are parentally responsible for the risks we take with our gametes and for the persons that develop when we engage in activity that allows our gametes to unite with others and develop into persons. Further argument establishes that when done respectfully, and in cases where the child's chances of leading a life of human flourishing are high, procreation may be permissible. Along the way, Weinberg argues that the non-identity problem is a curiously common mistake. Arguments intending to show that procreation is impermissible because life is bad for people and imposed on them without their consent are shown to have serious flaws. Yet because they leave us with lingering concerns, Weinberg argues that although procreation is permissible under certain conditions, it is not only a welfare risk but also a moral risk. Still, it is a risk that is often permissible for us to take and impose, given our high level of legitimate interest in procreativity. In order to ascertain when the procreative risk is permissible to impose, contractualist principles are proposed to fairly attend to the interests prospective parents have in procreating and the interests future people have in a life of human flourishing. The principles are assessed on their own merits and in comparison with rival principles. They are then applied to a wide variety of procreative cases. (shrink)
In this paper we propose to argue for two claims. The first is that a sizeable group of epistemological projects – a group which includes much of what has been done in epistemology in the analytic tradition – would be seriously undermined if one or more of a cluster of empirical hypotheses about epistemic intuitions turns out to be true. The basis for this claim will be set out in Section 2. The second claim is that, while the jury is (...) still out, there is now a substantial body of evidence suggesting that some of those empirical hypotheses are true. Much of this evidence derives from an ongoing series of experimental studies of epistemic intuitions that we have been conducting. A preliminary report on these studies will be presented in Section 3. In light of these studies, we think it is incumbent on those who pursue the epistemological projects in question to either explain why the truth of the hypotheses does not undermine their projects, or to say why, in light of the evidence we will present, they nonetheless assume that the hypotheses are false. In Section 4, which is devoted to Objections and Replies, we’ll consider some of the ways in which defenders of the projects we are criticizing might reply to our challenge. Our goal, in all of this, is not to offer a conclusive argument demonstrating that the epistemological projects we will be criticizing are untenable. Rather, our aim is to shift the burden of argument. (shrink)
Recent experimental philosophy arguments have raised trouble for philosophers' reliance on armchair intuitions. One popular line of response has been the expertise defense: philosophers are highly-trained experts, whereas the subjects in the experimental philosophy studies have generally been ordinary undergraduates, and so there's no reason to think philosophers will make the same mistakes. But this deploys a substantive empirical claim, that philosophers' training indeed inculcates sufficient protection from such mistakes. We canvass the psychological literature on expertise, which indicates that people (...) are not generally very good at reckoning who will develop expertise under what circumstances. We consider three promising hypotheses concerning what philosophical expertise might consist in: (i) better conceptual schemata; (ii) mastery of entrenched theories; and (iii) general practical know-how with the entertaining of hypotheticals. On inspection, none seem to provide us with good reason to endorse this key empirical premise of the expertise defense. (shrink)
A growing body of empirical literature challenges philosophers’ reliance on intuitions as evidence based on the fact that intuitions vary according to factors such as cultural and educational background, and socio-economic status. Our research extends this challenge, investigating Lehrer’s appeal to the Truetemp Case as evidence against reliabilism. We found that intuitions in response to this case vary according to whether, and which, other thought experiments are considered first. Our results show that compared to subjects who receive the Truetemp Case (...) first, subjects first presented with a clear case of knowledge are less willing to attribute knowledge in the Truetemp Case, and subjects first presented with a clear case of nonknowledge are more willing to attribute knowledge in the Truetemp Case. We contend that this instability undermines the supposed evidential status of these intuitions, such that philosophers who deal in intuitions can no longer rest comfortably in their armchairs. (shrink)
It has been standard philosophical practice in analytic philosophy to employ intuitions generated in response to thought-experiments as evidence in the evaluation of philosophical claims. In part as a response to this practice, an exciting new movement—experimental philosophy—has recently emerged. This movement is unified behind both a common methodology and a common aim: the application of methods of experimental psychology to the study of the nature of intuitions. In this paper, we will introduce two different views concerning the relationship that (...) holds between experimental philosophy and the future of standard philosophical practice (what we call, the proper foundation view and the restrictionist view), discuss some of the more interesting and important results obtained by proponents of both views, and examine the pressure these results put on analytic philosophers to reform standard philosophical practice. We will also defend experimental philosophy from some recent objections, suggest future directions for work in experimental philosophy, and suggest what future lines of epistemological response might be available to those wishing to defend analytic epistemology from the challenges posed by experimental philosophy. (shrink)
Using empirical evidence to attack intuitions can be epistemically dangerous, because various of the complaints that one might raise against them (e.g., that they are fallible; that we possess no non-circular defense of their reliability) can be raised just as easily against perception itself. But the opponents of intuition wish to challenge intuitions without at the same time challenging the rest of our epistemic apparatus. How might this be done? Let us use the term “hopefulness” to refer to the extent (...) to which we possess a good capacity for the detection and correction of the errors of any fallible source of evidence. I argue that we should not trust putative sources of evidence that are substantially lacking in hopefulness (even if they are basically reliable), and that we are indeed already operating under such a norm in our ordinary and scientific practices. I argue further that the philosophical practice of the appeal to intuitions is, in these terms, badly hopeless... (shrink)
Locke’s account of personal identity has been highly influential because of its emphasis on a psychological criterion. The same consciousness is required for being the same person. It is not so clear, however, exactly what Locke meant by ‘consciousness’ or by ‘having the same consciousness’. Interpretations vary: consciousness is seen as identical to memory, as identical to a first personal appropriation of mental states, and as identical to a first personal distinctive experience of the qualitative features of one’s own thinking. (...) There is wide agreement, however, that Locke’s theory of personal identity is meant to complement his moral and theological commitments to a system of divine punishment and reward in an afterlife. But these commitments seem to require also a metaphysical criterion, and Locke is insistent that it cannot be substance. The difficulty reconciling the psychological and metaphysical requirements of the theory has led, at worst, to charges of incoherence and, at best, to a slew of interpretations, none of which is widely accepted. (shrink)
Throughout the 20th century, an enormous amount of intellectual fuel was spent debating the merits of a class of skeptical arguments which purport to show that knowledge of the external world is not possible. These arguments, whose origins can be traced back to Descartes, played an important role in the work of some of the leading philosophers of the 20th century, including Russell, Moore and Wittgenstein, and they continue to engage the interest of contemporary philosophers. (e.g., Cohen 1999, DeRose 1995, (...) Hill 1996, Klein 1981, Lewis 1996, McGinn 1993, Nozick 1981, Schiffer 1996, Unger 1975, Williams 1996) Typically, these arguments make use of one or more premises which the philosophers proposing them take to be intuitively obvious. Beyond an appeal to intuition, little or no defense is offered, and in many cases it is hard to see what else could be said in support of these premises. A number of authors have suggested that the intuitions undergirding these skeptical arguments are universal – shared by everyone (or almost everyone) who thinks reflectively about knowledge. In this paper we will offer some evidence indicating that they are far from universal. Rather, the evidence suggests that many of the intuitions epistemologists invoke vary with the cultural background, socioeconomic status and educational background of the person offering the intuition. And this, we will argue, is bad news for the skeptical arguments that rely on those intuitions. The evidence may also be bad news for skepticism itself – not because it shows that skepticism is false, but rather because, if we accept one prominent account of the link between epistemic intuitions and epistemic concepts, it indicates that skepticism may be much less interesting and much less worrisome than philosophers have taken it to be. (shrink)
Our interest in this paper is to drive a wedge of contention between two different programs that fall under the umbrella of “experimental philosophy”. In particular, we argue that experimental philosophy’s “negative program” presents almost as significant a challenge to its “positive program” as it does to more traditional analytic philosophy.
In order for Herman Cappelen to argue in his Philosophy Without Intuitions that philosophers have been on the whole mistaken in thinking that we actually use intuitions much at all in our first-order philosophizing, he must attempt the task of characterizing what something must be, in order to be an intuition.My discussion here is focused on the latter half of the book concerning the “argument from philosophical practice. I am in wholehearted agreement with the first half’s thesis that the usage (...) of the term “intuition” is highly motley and of no methodological use. I truly sympathize with the frustration he evidently feels at wrangling with that task, because I’ve felt the same in my own project critiquing what I do take to be a fairly common practice in contemporary philosophy that we often gesture at when we speak of intuitions. For the literature on intuitions can be a total mess on even the most basic questions about what intuitions are: beliefs, or sui generis seemings? Special in .. (shrink)
Must philosophers incorporate tools of experimental science into their methodological toolbox? I argue here that they must. Tallying up all the resources that are now part of standard practice in analytic philosophy, we see the problem that they do not include adequate resources for detecting and correcting for their own biases and proclivities towards error. Methodologically sufficient resources for error- detection and error-correction can only come, in part, from the deployment of specific methods from the sciences. However, we need not (...) imagine that the resulting methodological norms will be so empirically demanding as to require that all appeals to intuition must first be precertified by a thorough vetting by teams of scientists. Rather, I sketch a set of more moderate methodological norms for how we might best include these necessary tools of experimental philosophy. (shrink)
Locke has been accused of failing to have a coherent understanding of consciousness, since it can be identical neither to reflection nor to ordinary perception without contradicting other important commitments. I argue that the account of consciousness is coherent once we see that, for Locke, perceptions of ideas are complex mental acts and that consciousness can be seen as a special kind of self-referential mental state internal to any perception of an idea.
Locke’s theory of personal identity was philosophically groundbreaking for its attempt to establish a non-substantial identity condition. Locke states, “For the same consciousness being preserv’d, whether in the same or different Substances, the personal Identity is preserv’d” (II.xxvii.13). Many have interpreted Locke to think that consciousness identifies a self both synchronically and diachronically by attributing thoughts and actions to a self. Thus, many have attributed to Locke either a memory theory or an appropriation theory of personal identity. But the former (...) stumble on circularity and the latter is insufficient for Locke’s moral theory insofar as he is committed to a theory of divine rectification. The common problem is that Locke’s theory seems to demand an objective, or metaphysical, fact of a continuing consciousness that does not appeal to a traditional notion of substance for the continuity. I’m suggesting something new. In II.xxvii of the Essay, we see an ambiguity in Locke’s use of the term ‘consciousness’. Locke seems to see consciousness as both a mental state by means of which we are aware of ourselves as perceiving and as the ongoing self we are aware of in these conscious states. First, I make the textual argument why we should read Locke as having a conception of a metaphysical fact of a continuing consciousness that does not appeal to thinking or bodily substance to establish its continuity. I then argue that the metaphysical fact of an enduring consciousness is revealed to us as a phenomenological fact of experience. Due to the nature of certain kinds of perceptual situations we have an experience of ourselves as temporally extended. Although the text bears out that Locke seemed to think there is a fact of an ongoing consciousness, I argue that it is consistent with his reluctance elsewhere that he makes no further epistemological or ontological claims about it. Finally, I provide an account of Locke’s understanding of memory and its relation to consciousness that supports the claim that consciousness is something ontologically distinct from either thinking or bodily substance. (shrink)
Much discussion about experimental philosophy and philosophical methodology has been framed in terms of the reliability of intuitions, and even when it has not been about reliability per se, it has been focused on whether intuitions meet whatever conditions they need to meet to be trustworthy as evidence. But really that question cannot be answered independently from the questions, evidence for what theories arrived at by what sorts of inferences? I will contend here that not just philosophy's sources of evidence, (...) but also its inferential resources, are in great need of closer examination. (shrink)
Controversies over the innateness of cognitive processes, mechanisms, and structures play a persistent role in driving research in philosophy as well as the cognitive sciences, but the appropriate way to understand the category of the innate remains subject to dispute. One venerable approach in philosophy and cognitive science merely contrasts innate features with those that are learned. In fact, Jerry Fodor has recently suggested that this remains our best handle on innateness.
Philosophers concerned with procreative ethics have long been puzzled by Parfit’s Non-Identity Problem (NIP). Various solutions have been proposed, but I argue that we have not solved the problem on its own narrow person-affecting terms, i.e., in terms of the identified individuals affected by procreative decisions and acts, especially future children. Thus, the core problem remains unsolved. This is a nagging concern for all who hold the common intuition that actions that harm no one are permissible. I argue against Harmon’s (...) and Woodward’s direct, narrow person-affecting solutions, and in favor of a new solution to the NIP. My solution, or, rather, dissolution, is based on the argument that merely possible people, i.e., hypothetical people who could possibly, but will not actually, exist, are morally irrelevant. I show that the NIP only arises when we concern ourselves with merely possible people. Once we are careful to restrict our concerns to only those that do or will exist, the NIP is dissolved. (shrink)
It has become increasingly popular to respond to experimental philosophy by suggesting that experimental philosophers haven’t been studying the right kind of thing. One version of this kind of response, which we call the reflection defense, involves suggesting both that philosophers are interested only in intuitions that are the product of careful reflection on the details of hypothetical cases and the key concepts involved in those cases, and that these kinds of philosophical intuitions haven’t yet been adequately studied by experimental (...) philosophers. Of course, as a defensivemove, thisworks only if reflective intuitions are immune from the kinds of problematic effects that form the basis of recent experimental challenges to philosophy’s intuition-deploying practices. If they are not immune to these kinds of effects, then the fact that experimental philosophers have not had the right kind of thing in their sights would provide little comfort to folks invested in philosophy’s intuition-deploying practices. Here we provide reasons to worry that even reflective intuitions can display sensitivity to the same kinds of problematic effects, although possibly in slightly different ways. As it turns out, being reflective might sometimes just mean being wrong in a different way. (shrink)
Recent theorists suggest that our capacity to respond affectively to fictions depends on our ability to engage in simulation: either simulating a character in the fiction, or simulating someone reading or watching the fiction as though it were fact. We argue that such accounts are quite successful at accounting for many of the basic explananda of our affective engagements in fiction. Nonetheless, we argue further that simulationist accounts ultimately fail, for simulation involves an ineliminably ego-centred element that is atypical of (...) our experience of fiction. We then draw on recent work in philosophical psychology to articulate a more psychologically plausible account of our emotional engagement with fiction. (shrink)
The practice of appealing to esoteric intuitions, long standard in analytic philosophy, has recently fallen on hard times. Various recent empirical results have suggested that philosophers are not currently able to distinguish good intuitions from bad. This paper evaluates one possible type of approach to this problematic methodological situation: calibration. Both critiquing and building on an argument from Robert Cummins, the paper explores what possible avenues may exist for the calibration of philosophical intuitions. It is argued that no good options (...) are currently available, but leaves open the real possibility of such a calibration in the future. (shrink)
Virginia Held, best known for her landmark book Rights and Goods, has made an indelible mark on the fields of ethics, feminist philosophy, and social and political thought. Her impact on a generation of feminist thinkers is unrivaled and she has been at the forfront of discussions about the way in which an ethic of care can affect social and political matters. These new essays by leading contemporary philosophers range over all of these areas. While each stands alone, the essays (...) together demonstrate the lasting value of Held's work to the field. Includes an afterword by Held. (shrink)
The developing body of empirical work on the "Gettier effect" indicates that, in general, the presence of a Gettier-type structure in a case makes participants less likely to attribute knowledge in that case. But is that a sufficient reason to diverge from a JTB theory of knowledge? I argue that considerations of good model selection, and worries about noise and overfitting, should lead us to consider that a live, open question. The Gettier effect is perhaps so transient, and so sensitive (...) to other, epistemologically-inappropriate factors, that it raises the question of whether it ought to be counted as something to include in our theories -- or as a piece of noise to be excluded from them. (shrink)
Timothy Williamson devotes significant effort in his The Philosophy of Philosophy to arguing against skepticism about judgment. One might think that the recent “experimental philosophy” challenge to the philosophical practice of appealing to intuitions as evidence is a possible target of those arguments. However, this is not so. The structure of that challenge is radically dissimilar from that of traditional skeptical arguments, and the aims of the challenge are entirely congruent with the spirit of methodological improvement that Williamson himself exemplifies (...) in the Afterword of his book. (shrink)
Although radical forms of relativism are perhaps beyond the epistemological pale, I argue here that a more moderate form may be plausible, and articulate the conditions under which moderate epistemic relativism could well serve our epistemic goals. In particular, as a result of our limitations as human cognizers, we fi nd ourselves needing to investigate the dappled and difficult world by means of competing communities of highly specialized researchers. We would do well, I argue, to admit of the existence of (...) unresolvable disputes between such communities, but only so long as there is a sufficient amount of fruitful exchange between them as well. I close with some speculation about when it is or is not legitimate to make an “appeal to discipline”: responding to another’s argument by saying something like, “we should do it this way, because we are philosophers (/linguists/psychologists/…), and that’s just what we do”. (shrink)
Like many other scientists, I was amused by news of the prank played by the NYU mathematical physicist Alan Sokal. Late in 1994 he submitted a sham article to the cultural studies journal Social Text, in which he reviewed some current topics in physics and mathematics, and with tongue in cheek drew various cultural, philosophical and political morals that he felt would appeal to fashionable academic commentators on science who question the claims of science to objectivity.
Given his representationalism how can Locke claim we have sensitive knowledge of the external world? We can see the skeptic as asking two different questions: how we can know the existence of external things, or more specifically how we can know inferentially of the existence of external things. Locke's account of sensitive knowledge, a form of non-inferential knowledge, answers the first question. All we can achieve by inference is highly probable judgment. Because Locke's theory of knowledge includes both first order (...) psychological and second order normative conditions, sensitive knowledge can be non-inferential and less certain than intuitive and demonstrative knowledge. (shrink)
This paper proposes a revision of our understanding of causation that is designed to address what Hartry Field has suggested is the central problem in the metaphysics of causation today: reconciling Bertrand Russell’s arguments that the concept of causation can play no role in the advanced sciences with Nancy Cartwright’s arguments that causal concepts are essential to a scientific understanding of the world. The paper shows that Russell’s main argument is, ironically, very similar to an argument that Cartwright has put (...) forward against the truth of universal laws of nature. The paper uses this insight to develop an account of causation that does justice to traditional views yet avoids the arguments of Russell. (shrink)
Standard philosophical methodology which proceeds by appeal to intuitions accessible "from the armchair" has come under criticism on the basis of empirical work indicating unanticipated variability of such intuitions. Loose constitutivity---the idea that intuitions are partly, but not strictly, constitutive of the concepts that appear in them---offers an interesting line of response to this empirical challenge. On a loose constitutivist view, it is unlikely that our intuitions are incorrect across the board, since they partly fix the facts in question. But (...) we argue that this ratification of intuitions is at best rough and generic, and can only do the required methodological work if it operates in conjunction with some sort of further criteria of theory selection. We consider two that we find in the literature: naturalness (Brian Weatherson, borrowing from Lewis) and charity (Henry Jackman, borrowing from Davidson). At the end of the day, neither provides the armchair philosopher complete shelter from extra-armchair inquiry. (shrink)
Knobe's argument rests on a way of distinguishing performance errors from the competencies that delimit our cognitive architecture. We argue that other sorts of evidence than those that he appeals to are needed to illuminate the boundaries of our folk capacities in ways that would support his conclusions.
Machery's case against hybrids rests on a principle that is too strong, even by his own lights. And there are likely important generalizations to be made about hybrids, if they do exist. Moreover, even if there were no important generalizations about concepts themselves, the term picks out an important class of entities and should be retained to help guide inquiry.
Locke defines knowledge as the perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas. Nevertheless, he claims that we know particular things: the identity of our ideas, our own existence, and the existence of external objects. Although much has been done to reconcile the definition of knowledge with our knowledge of external objects, there is virtually nothing in the scholarship when it comes to knowing ideas or our own existence. I fill in this gap by arguing that perceptions of ideas are (...) complex mental states that convey propositional knowledge due to agreeing elements therein. (shrink)
Teleological theories of reason and value, upon which all reasons are fundamentally reasons to realize states of affairs that are in some respect best, cannot account for the intuition that victims in non-identity cases have been wronged. Many philosophers, however, reject such theories in favor of alternatives that recognize fundamentally non-teleological reasons, second-personal reasons that reflect a moral significance each person has that is not grounded in the teleologist’s appeal to outcomes. Such deontological accounts appear to be better positioned to (...) identify the wrong committed against non-identity victims because a person wrongs another on such accounts if she violates his second-personal claims -- overall benefit to victims presents no obstacle to the identification of second-personal wrongdoing. Derek Parfit argues that non-identity is a problem for these deontological theories as well because the alleged victims are properly understood as consenting to the action in question, thereby waiving any such second-personal claim. But his arguments misrepresent the role of consent on such theories by articulating it through appeal to the very teleological theory of reasons that their advocates dismiss as inadequate. Properly understood, Parfit’s appeal to consent understood as retroactive endorsement only provides the answer on such deontological accounts to the question of whether, given that the non-identity victim is second-personally wronged, he is nonetheless better off existing. Indeed, it becomes clear that it is teleological theories for which non-identity poses a particular problem: they cannot -- while their deontological counterparts can – account for the intuition that non-identity victims have been wronged. (shrink)
The liar paradox is widely conceived as a problem for logic and semantics. On the basis of empirical studies presented here, we suggest that there is an underappreciated psychological dimension to the liar paradox and related problems, conceived as a problem for human thinkers. Specific findings suggest that how one interprets the liar sentence and similar paradoxes can vary in relation to one’s capacity for logical and reflective thought, acceptance of certain logical principles, and degree of philosophical training, but also (...) as a function of factors such as religious belief, gender, and whether the problem is treated as theoretical or practical. Though preliminary, these findings suggest that one reason the liar paradox resists a final resolution is that it engages both aspects described by so-called dual process accounts of human cognition. (shrink)
Griffiths and Machery contend that the concept of innateness should be dispensed with in the sciences. We contend that, once that concept is properly understood as what we have called 'closed process invariance', it is still of significant use in the sciences, especially cognitive science.
In Self?Ownership, Freedom, and Equality, G.A. Cohen argues that libertarianism does not follow from respect for freedom, and that libertarianism cannot be grounded on self?ownership. Cohen's arguments are, for the most part, compelling. That leaves the libertarian philosopher the options of either moving leftwards?for example, along the lines of Philippe Van. Parijs 's Real Freedom for All?or embracing some form of consequentialism. Either way, the result is the abandonment of characteristically libertarian political philosophy.
The quality of a life is typically understood as a function of the actual goods and bads in it, that is, its actual value. Likewise, the value of a population is typically taken to be a function of the actual value of the lives in it. We introduce an alternative understanding of life quality: adjusted value. A life’s adjusted value is a function of its actual value and its ideal value (the best value it could have had). The concept of (...) adjusted value is useful for at least three reasons. First, it fits our judgments about how well lives are going. Second, it allows us to avoid what we call False Equivalence, an error related to the non-identity problem. Third, when we use adjusted value as an input for calculating the value of a population, we can avoid two puzzles that Derek Parfit calls the “Repugnant Conclusion” and the “Mere Addition Paradox.”. (shrink)