The claim that ordinary ethical discourse is typically true and that ethical facts are typically knowable seems in tension with the claim that ordinary ethical discourse is about features of reality friendly to a scientific worldview. Cornell Realism attempts to dispel this tension by claiming that ordinary ethical discourse is, in fact, discourse about the same kinds of things that scientific discourse is about: natural properties. We offer two novel arguments in reply. First, we identify a key assumption that we (...) find unlikely to be true. Second, we identify two features of typical natural properties that ethical properties lack. We conclude that Cornell Realism falls short of dispelling the tension between ethical conservativism and ethical naturalism. (shrink)
Epistemic Value Monism is the view that there is only one kind of thing of basic, final epistemic value. Perhaps the most plausible version of Epistemic Value Monism is Truth Value Monism, the view that only true beliefs are of basic, final epistemic value. Several authors—notably Jonathan Kvanvig and Michael DePaul—have criticized Truth Value Monism by appealing to the epistemic value of things other than knowledge. Such arguments, if successful, would establish Epistemic Value Pluralism is true and Epistemic Value Monism (...) is false. This paper critically examines those arguments, finding them wanting. However, I develop an argument for Epistemic Value Pluralism that succeeds which turns on general reflection on the nature of value. (shrink)
Skeptical theism is a family of responses to the evidential problem of evil. What unifies this family is two general claims. First, that even if God were to exist, we shouldn’t expect to see God’s reasons for permitting the suffering we observe. Second, the previous claim entails the failure of a variety of arguments from evil against the existence of God. In this essay, we identify three particular articulations of skeptical theism—three different ways of “filling in” those two claims—and describes (...) their role in responding to evidential arguments of evil due to William Rowe and Paul Draper. But skeptical theism has been subject to a variety of criticisms, several of which raise interesting issues and puzzles not just in philosophy of religion but other areas of philosophy as well. Consequently, we discuss some of these criticisms, partly with an eye to bringing out the connections between skeptical theism and current topics in mainstream philosophy. Finally, we conclude by situating skeptical theism within our own distinctive methodology for evaluating world views, what we call “worldview theory versioning.”. (shrink)
Evidentialism has shown itself to be an important research program in contemporary epistemology, with evidentialists giving theories of virtually every important topic in epistemology. Nevertheless, at the heart of evidentialism is a handful of concepts, namely evidence, evidence possession, and evidential fit. If evidentialists cannot give us a plausible account of these concepts, then their research program, with all its various theories, will be in serious trouble. In this paper, I argue that evidentialists has yet to give a plausible account (...) of evidence possession and the prospects for doing so are dim. (shrink)
In the Summa Theologiae, Aquinas offers an adept account of the vice of envy. Despite the virtues of his account, he nevertheless fails to provide an adequatedefinition of the vice. Instead, he offers two different definitions each of which fails to identify what is common to all cases of envy. Here I supplement Aquinas’saccount by providing what I take to be common to all cases of envy. I argue that what is common is a “perception of inferiority”—when a person perceives (...) her ownself-worth to be inferior to another and thereby feels her own self-worth diminish. By incorporating perceptions of inferiority into the definition of envy, we obtain adefinition that retains the spirit of Aquinas’s thought, while improving upon its letter. (shrink)
Almost everyone agrees that many testimonial beliefs constitute knowledge. According to non-reductionists, some testimonial beliefs possess positive epistemic status independent of that conferred by perception, memory, and induction. Recently, Jennifer Lackey has provided a counterexample to a popular version of this view. Here I argue that her counterexample fails.
Some skeptical theists use Wykstra’s CORNEA constraint to undercut Rowe-style inductive arguments from evil. Many critics of skeptical theism accept CORNEA, but argue that Rowe-style arguments meet its constraint. But Justin McBrayer argues that CORNEA is itself mistaken. It is, he claims, akin to “sensitivity” or “truth-tracking” constraints like those of Robert Nozick; but counterexamples show that inductive evidence is often insensitive. We here defend CORNEA against McBrayer’s chief counterexample. We first clarify CORNEA, distinguishing it from a deeper underlying principle (...) that we dub “CORE.” We then give both principles a probabilistic construal, and show how, on this construal, the counterexample fails. (shrink)
This paper critically examines Michael Zimmerman’s account of basic final value in The Nature of Intrinsic Value. Zimmerman’s account has several positive features. Unfortunately, as I argue, given one plausible assumption about value his account derives a contradiction. I argue that rejecting that assumption has several implausible results and that we should instead reject Zimmerman’s account. I then sketch an alternative account of basic final value, showing how it retains some of the positive features of Zimmerman’s account while avoiding its (...) pitfalls. (shrink)
What we call “the evidential argument from evil” is not one argument but a family of them, originating (perhaps) in the 1979 formulation of William Rowe. Wykstra’s early versions of skeptical theism emerged in response to Rowe’s evidential arguments. But what sufficed as a response to Rowe may not suffice against later more sophisticated versions of the problem of evil—in particular, those along the lines pioneered by Paul Draper. Our chief aim here is to make an earlier version of skeptical (...) theism more responsive to the type abductive atheology pioneered by Draper. In particular, we suggest a moderate form of skeptical theism may be able to resist Draper’s abductive atheology. (shrink)
Envy is, roughly, the disposition to desire that another lose a perceived good so that one can, by comparison, feel better about one’s self. The divisiveness of envy follows not just from one’s willing against the good of the other, but also from the other vices that spring from it. It is for this second reason that envy is a capital vice. This chapter begins by arguing for a definition of envy similar to that given by Aquinas and then considers (...) its relationship to other vices (e.g. jealousy, schadenfreude, and hate). At the heart of envy is a disposition to make relative comparisons which lead to a sense of inferiority. This is turn can lead a person to feel and act in ways destructive of community and the self. The present chapter also addresses recent work in both psychology and economics related to envy. (shrink)
Epistemic deontology maintains that our beliefs and degrees of belief are open to deontic evaluations—evaluations of what we ought to believe or may not believe. Some philosophers endorse strong internalist versions of epistemic deontology on which agents can always access what determines the deontic status of their beliefs and degrees of belief. This paper articulates a new challenge for strong internalist versions of epistemic deontology. Any version of epistemic deontology must face William Alston’s argument. Alston combined a broadly voluntarist conception (...) of responsibility, on which ought implies can, with doxastic involuntarism, the position that our beliefs are not under our control. Together, those views imply that epistemic deontology is false. A promising response to Alston’s argument is to embrace a compatibilist account of control—specifically a reason-responsive version of compatibilism—and use it to criticism his doxastic involuntarism. I argue that while reason-responsive compatibilism about control does undermine Alston’s argument, it comes at a cost. Specifically, it is inconsistent with strong internalist versions of epistemic deontology. The surprising upshot is that so long as we retain a voluntarist conception of responsibility, we have reason for rejecting strong internalist versions of epistemic deontology. (shrink)
According to a common view, animals have moral status. Further, a standard defense of this view is the Argument from Consciousness: animals have moral status because they are conscious and can experience pain and it would be bad were they to experience pain. In a series of papers :277–291, 2015a, J Agric Environ Ethics 28:11270–1138, 2015b, J Agric Environ Ethics 30:37–54, 2017), Timothy Hsiao claims that animals do not have moral status and criticizes the Argument from Consciousness. This short paper (...) defends the Argument from Consciousness by providing two simple responses to Hsiao’s criticism. (shrink)
Priority Theory is an increasingly popular view in metaphysics. By seeing metaphysical questions as primarily concerned with what explains what, instead of merely what exists, it promises not only an interesting approach to traditional metaphysical issues but also the resolution of some outstanding disputes. In a recent paper, Louis deRosset argues that Priority Theory isn’t up to the task: Priority Theory is committed to there being explanations that violate a formal constraint on any adequate explanation. This paper critically examines deRosset’s (...) challenge to Priority Theory. We argue that deRosset’s challenge ultimately fails: his proposed constraint on explanation is neither well-motivated nor a general constraint. Nonetheless, lurking behind his criticism is a deep problem for prominent ways of developing Priority Theory, a problem which we develop. (shrink)
In On Reflection, Hilary Kornblith criticizes Sosa’s distinction between animal and reflective knowledge. His two chief criticisms are that reflective knowledge is not superior to animal knowledge and that Sosa’s distinction does not identify two kinds of knowledge. I argue that Sosa can successfully avoid both of these charges.
Peter Singer argues, on consequentialist grounds, that individuals ought to be vegetarian. Many have pressed, in response, a causal impotence objection to Singer’s argument: any individual person’s refraining from purchasing and consuming animal products will not have an important effect on contemporary farming practices. In this paper, I sketch a Singer-inspired consequentialist argument for vegetarianism that avoids this objection. The basic idea is that, for agents who are aware of the origins of their food, continuing to consume animal products is (...) morally bad because it leads to not appropriately disvaluing the origins of their food. That is a morally bad outcome that can be avoided by becoming vegetarian. (shrink)
Truthmaker theorists hold that there is a metaphysically explanatory relation that holds between true claims and what exists. While some critics try to provide counterexamples to truthmaker theory, that response quickly leads to a dialectical standoff. The aim of this paper is to move beyond that standoff by attempting to undermine some standard arguments for truthmaker theory. Using realism about truth and a more pragmatic account of explanation, I show how some of those arguments can be undermined.
There’s a growing sense among philosophers of religion that Humean arguments from evil are some of the most formidable arguments against theism, and skeptical theism fails to undermine those arguments because they fail to make the inferences skeptical theists criticize. In line with this trend, Wes Morriston has recently formulated a Humean argument from evil, and his chief defense of it is that skeptical theism is irrelevant to it. Here I argue that skeptical theism is relevant to Humean arguments. To (...) do this, I reveal the common structure of skeptical theism’s critiques. Seeing the common structure reveals why some versions of skeptical theism are irrelevant to Humean arguments from evil. It also points the way forward to formulating a relevant version. By combining skeptical theism with a plausible principle concerning reasonable belief, I formulate a version of skeptical theism that undermines Morriston’s argument that is also immune from his objections. (shrink)
Most epistemologists maintain that true beliefs are of final epistemic value. However, Richard Feldman is a rare philosopher who is skeptical that true beliefs are of final epistemic value. The aim of this paper is to evaluate Feldman’s criticisms. I’ll argue that Feldman’s arguments ultimately turn on a view about the relation between epistemic duties and epistemic value that is implausible and underdeveloped.
In a recent article, David Kyle Johnson has claimed to have provided a ‘refutation’ of skeptical theism. Johnson’s refutation raises several interesting issues. But in this note, I focus on only one—an implicit principle Johnson uses in his refutation to update probabilities after receiving new evidence. I argue that this principle is false. Consequently, Johnson’s refutation, as it currently stands, is undermined.
In a series of papers, Adam Leite has developed a novel view of justification tied to being able to responsibly justify a belief. Leite touts his view as faithful to our ordinary practice of justifying beliefs, providing a novel response to an epistemological problem of the infinite regress, and resolving the “persistent interlocutor” problem. Though I find elements of Leite’s view of being able to justify a belief promising, I hold that there are several problems afflicting the overall picture of (...) justification. In this paper, I argue that despite its ambitions, Leite’s view fails to solve the persistent interlocutor problem and does not avoid a vicious regress. (shrink)
The basic methods of constructing the sets of mutually unbiased bases in the Hilbert space of an arbitrary finite dimension are reviewed and an emerging link between them is outlined. It is shown that these methods employ a wide range of important mathematical concepts like, e.g., Fourier transforms, Galois fields and rings, finite, and related projective geometries, and entanglement, to mention a few. Some applications of the theory to quantum information tasks are also mentioned.
Does postulating skeptical theism undermine the claim that evil strongly confirms atheism over theism? According to Perrine and Wykstra, it does undermine the claim, because evil is no more likely on atheism than on skeptical theism. According to Draper, it does not undermine the claim, because evil is much more likely on atheism than on theism in general. I show that the probability facts alone do not resolve their disagreement, which ultimately rests on which updating procedure – conditionalizing or (...) updating on a conditional – fits both the evidence and how we ought to take that evidence into account. (shrink)
In my 2013 article ‘A Refutation of Skeptical Theism,’ I argued that observing seemingly unjustified evils always reduces the probability of God’s existence. When figuring the relevant probabilities, I used a basic probability calculus that simply distributes the probability of falsified hypotheses equally. In 2015, Timothy Perrine argued that, since Bayes Theorem doesn’t always equally distribute the probability of falsified hypotheses, my argument is undermined unless I can also show that my thesis follows on a Bayesian analysis. It is (...) the purpose of this paper to meet that burden. (shrink)
Skeptical theists have been charged with being committed to global skepticism. I consider this objection as it applies to a common variety of skeptical theism based on an epistemological principle that Stephen Wykstra labeled “CORNEA.” I show how a recent reformulation of CORNEA (provided by Stephen Wykstra and Timothy Perrine) affords us with a formal apparatus that allows us to see just where this objection gets a grip on that view, as well as what is needed for an adequate (...) response. I conclude by arguing that, given some plausible, modest, and independently motivated anti-skeptical principles, this objection poses no threat to Wykstra’s brand of skeptical theism. (shrink)