Many ameliorative projects aim at moral goods such as social equality. For example, the amelioration of the concept MARRIAGE forms part of efforts to achieve equal rights for the LGBT+ community. What does implementation of such an ameliorated concept consist in? In this paper, I argue that, for some ameliorated concepts, successful implementation requires that individuals eschew semantic deference, at least with respect to relevant dimensions of the concept. My argument appeals to consideration of the aims of conceptual engineers engaged (...) in this type of ameliorative project: they seek conceptual change in order to contribute to the dismantling of oppressive social structures, institutions, and systems of belief. I argue that, for such aims to be achieved, it must be the case that individuals who come to endorse the concept do so for the right reasons---because they have gained an understanding of why the ameliorated concept is morally preferable to its ancestor. Once they have acquired such reasons, however, they are no longer correctly described as semantically deferential; they will treat moral reasons to employ the concept as overriding of semantic considerations. (shrink)
Cappelen proposes a radically externalist framework for conceptual engineering. This approach embraces the following two theses. Firstly, the mechanisms that underlie conceptual engineering are inscrutable: they are too complex, unstable and non-systematic for us to grasp. Secondly, the process of conceptual engineering is largely beyond our control. One might think that these two theses are peculiar to the Austerity Framework, or to metasemantic externalism more generally. However, Cappelen argues that there is no reason to think that internalism avoids either commitment. (...) Cappelen argues that to do so she must provide arguments for 3 claims: there are inner states that are scrutable and within our control; concepts supervene on these inner states; and the determination relation from supervenience base to content is itself scrutable and within our control. In this paper, I argue that internalist conceptual role theories of content can meet Cappelen’s challenge. (shrink)
Social externalism must allow that subjects can misunderstand the content of their own thoughts. I argue that we can exploit this commitment to create a dilemma for the view’s account of communication. To arrive at the first horn of the dilemma, I argue that, on social externalism, it is understanding which is the measure of communicative success. This would be a highly revisionary account of communication. The only way that the social externalist can salvage the claim that mental content is (...) central to explaining communicative success is by adopting an account which gives unacceptable diagnoses as to the success of communicative exchanges. This is the second horn of the dilemma. Contrastingly, certain internalist views of content, which deny that subjects share thought content, do not face the dilemma. I argue that, as such, we should prefer accounts of communication which deny that subjects speak the same language. (shrink)
How much linguistic understanding is required for testimonial knowledge acquisition? One answer is that, so long as we grasp the content expressed by the speaker, it does not matter if our understanding of it is poor. Call this the ‘Liberal View’ of testimony. This approach looks especially promising when combined with the thesis that we share a public language that makes it easy to grasp the right content. In this paper, I argue that this picture is epistemically problematic. Poor linguistic (...) understanding undermines our ability to recognise evidence and counterevidence for the testimonial content. Because of this, in many cases in which a hearer’s understanding is poor, her resultant testimonial belief will lack sufficient warrant to qualify as knowledge. Given that we often do not possess a sufficiently good understanding of the testimony we consume, I argue that we acquire far less knowledge through testimony than the Liberal View suggests. (shrink)
It is commonly assumed that content preservation is required for success in testimonial exchanges. Many content internalists, however, cannot endorse this assumption. They must claim instead that testimonial exchanges can often succeed when the content grasped by the hearer is not the content of the speaker’s testimony, p, but some merely similar content, p*. Goldberg (2007. Anti-Individualism: Mind and Language, Knowledge and Justification. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) argues that this internalist approach is epistemically problematic: it cannot maintain certain features thought (...) to be characteristic of testimonial exchanges. I argue that, contrary to appearances, the internalist’s account is just as epistemically respectable as the traditional ‘same content’ approach favoured by externalists. (shrink)
In Thinking and Acting John Pollock offers some criticisms of Bayesian epistemology, and he defends an alternative understanding of the role of probability in epistemology. Here, I defend the Bayesian against some of Pollock's criticisms, and I discuss a potential problem for Pollock's alternative account.
Scott Sturgeon has recently challenged Pollock’s account of undercutting defeaters. The challenge involves three primary contentions: the account is both too strong and too weak, undercutting defeaters exercise their power to defeat only in conjunction with higher-order beliefs about the basis of the lower-order beliefs whose justification they target, and since rebutting defeaters exercise their power to defeat in isolation, rebutting and undercutting defeaters work in fundamentally different ways. My goal is to reject each of these contentions. I maintain (...) that Sturgeon fails to show that Pollock’s account of undercutting defeaters is either too strong or too weak, his own account of how undercutting defeaters exercise their power to defeat is both too strong and too weak, and his claim that rebutting and undercutting defeaters work in fundamentally different ways is mistaken. (shrink)
John Pollock aims to construct a theory of rational decision making for real agents--not ideal agents. Pollock argues that theories of ideal rationality are largely irrelevant to the decision making of real agents. Thinking about Acting aims to provide a theory of "real rationality.".
The epistemologist John Pollock has implemented computationally an architecture for a rational agent which he calls OSCAR. OSCAR models both practical and theoretical (or epistemic) reasoning. I argue that Pollock's model of practical reasoning, which has seven components, is superior not only to the two-component belief-desire model stemming from Aristotle, but also to the three-component belief-desire-intention model developed especially by Michael Bratman. Despite its advantages, Pollock's model of practical reasoning is incomplete in at least three respects: it (...) is solipsistic, it is egoistic and it is unsocial. (shrink)
Counterexamples are constructed for the theory of rational choice that results from a direct application of classical decision theory to ordinary actions. These counterexamples turn on the fact that an agent may be unable to perform an action, and may even be unable to try to perform an action. An alternative theory of rational choice is proposed that evaluates actions using a more complex measure, and then it is shown that this is equivalent to applying classical decision theory to "conditional (...) policies" rather than ordinary actions. (shrink)
A theory of rational choice is a theory of how an agent should, rationally, go about deciding what actions to perform at any given time. For example, I may want to decide whether to go to a movie this evening or stay home and read a book. The actions between which we want to choose are perfectly ordinary actions, and the presumption is that to make such a decision we should attend to the likely consequences of our decision. It is (...) assumed that these decisions must be made in the face of uncertainty regarding both the agent’s initial situation and the consequences of his actions. (shrink)
Epistemic defeat is standardly understood in either evidentialist or responsibilist terms. The seminal treatment of defeat is an evidentialist one, due to John Pollock, who famously distinguishes between undercutting and rebutting defeaters. More recently, an orthogonal distinction due to Jennifer Lackey has become widely endorsed, between so-called doxastic (or psychological) and normative defeaters. We think that neither doxastic nor normative defeaters, as Lackey understands them, exist. Both of Lackey’s categories of defeat derive from implausible assumptions about epistemic responsibility. Although (...)Pollock’s evidentialist view is superior, the evidentialism per se can be purged from it, leaving a general structure of defeat that can be incorporated in a reliabilist theory that is neither evidentialist nor responsibilist in any way. (shrink)
In his groundbreaking new book, John Pollock establishes an outpost at the crossroads where artificial intelligence meets philosophy. Specifically, he proposes a general theory of rationality and then describes its implementation in OSCAR, an architecture for an autonomous rational agent he claims is the "first AI system capable of performing reasoning that philosophers would regard as epistemically sophisticated." A sequel to Pollock's How to Build a Person, this volume builds upon that theoretical groundwork for the implementation of rationality (...) through artificial intelligence. Pollock argues that progress in AI has stalled because of its creators' reliance upon unformulated intuitions about rationality. Instead, he bases the OSCAR architecture upon an explicit philosophical theory of rationality, encompassing principles of practical cognition, epistemic cognition, and defeasible reasoning. One of the results is the world's first automated defeasible reasoner capable of reasoning in a rich, logical environment. Underlying Pollock's thesis is a conviction that the tenets of artificial intelligence and those of philosophy can be complementary and mutually beneficial. And, while members of both camps have in recent years grown skeptical of the very possibility of "symbol processing" AI, Cognitive Carpentry establishes that such an approach to AI can be successful. A Bradford Book. (shrink)
A fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and of the Royal Society, William Clifford made his reputation in applied mathematics, but his interests ranged far more widely, encompassing ethics, evolution, metaphysics and philosophy of mind. This posthumously collected two-volume work, first published in 1879, bears witness to the dexterity and eclecticism of this Victorian thinker, whose commitment to the most abstract principles of mathematics and the most concrete details of human experience resulted in vivid and often unexpected arguments. Volume 1 includes (...) a detailed biographical introduction by Clifford's colleague, Frederick Pollock, who situates his close friend's interests in Darwin and Spinoza within a larger, life-long devotion to the principles of scientific enquiry and experiment. This volume also features two important essays, 'On Some of the Conditions of Mental Development', his first public lecture delivered at the Royal Institute in London, and 'The Philosophy of the Pure Sciences'. (shrink)
Theory in sociology is constructed as a canon, a very short list of social theorists who have been endowed with suprahistorical status. Drawing on the feminist analysis of gendered consciousness, the author argues that social theory is organized exactly as it should be if one were thinking like a White male capitalist. The perceptual frameworks it employs—a hierarchy of the social, logical dichotomies, decontextualized abstraction, an individualist approach—resonate well with descriptions of hegemonic masculine consciousness. As a result, social theory has (...) not just distorted social perception, it is becoming functionally irrelevant in contemporary social life. The author argues that reasonable understandings are more likely if we are developing via an epistemology of connection, moving from thinking of theory as a holy text to organizing theory to create bridges between diverse standpoints, across disciplinary boundaries, and between knowing and doing. (shrink)
This paper is informed by my own participant observation and uses my own ethnography which included conducting in-depth interviews with anonymous paid egg donors and observing a listserv for women considering, pursuing, or having completed egg donation, to illustrate the way that power operates at this particular site of the reproductive center in postmodernity. After outlining who the consumers and providers of eggs are, I will use Foucault's concepts of biopower, disciplinary power, and normativity to describe how anonymous paid egg (...) donation plays a socially useful role in reproducing privilege and in preserving the myth of the nuclear family. Drawing on feminist theorizing to problematize altruism, I will show how the construction of the altruist narrative feeds the preservation of that myth by giving egg donors appropriately feminine motivations. Finally, I will focus on one particular site of resistance on the part of egg donors—controlling their self-presentation, tweaking the pool of eggs—to underscore the simultaneity of control of and control by egg donors. (shrink)
Frederick Pollock and the English Juristic Tradition provides the first detailed historical account of one of England's great jurists. Drawing upon a vast array of sources, Neil Duxbury examines Pollock's career, jurisprudence, philosophy of the common law, treatise writing, and editorial initiatives, and shows that Pollock's contribution to the development of English law and juristic inquiry is both complex and crucial.Readership: Scholars and students of legal history and legal thought, barristers, and judges.
In everyday life people frequently recognize that a person at a time may be more or less strongly motivated to carry out an intentional action and that “trying harder” frequently affects the successful completion of an intentional action. In “Rational Choice and Action Omnipotence,” John Pollock provides an original account of rational choice in which “trying to do an action” is a basic factor. This paper argues that Pollock’s “expected-utility optimality prescription” is deficient because it lacks a parameter (...) for intensity of trying. The paper also indicates specific ways in which this deficiency could be corrected. (shrink)
The spreading of reputational information about group members through gossip represents a widespread, efficient, and low-cost form of punishment. Research shows that negative arousal states motivate individuals to gossip about the transgressions of group members. By sharing information in this way groups are better able to promote cooperation and maintain social control and order.
We occupy a fascinating moment in time when the trajectory of technological development is throwing into doubt the certainty of understandings of the boundary between the human and the technological. Perhaps one of the key contributions that industrial designers have made to humankind has been the way in which they have made the extraordinary potentiality of technology seem utterly ordinary: they call it the 'humanisation of technology' . Designers, however, seem to be in something of an intellectual spin; they have (...) done little to mollify the projection of these times as extraordinary and without precedent in the trajectory of the human species. Rather than adding to the many who call for discontinuity, a speculative design scenario is presented taking impetus from the opportunity for designers to reconsider the essential principles that underpin their intellectual community. The scenarios explore how it will be necessary to find a means to analyse the human and the technological without seeking closure through outmoded forms of material and representational analysis. If designers can reveal borders and epistemic heterogeneity to be matters of conceptual and rhetorical convenience, then they might act upon a strategy that understands materiality to be tied to a new form of intellectual complexity in keeping with these times. In that way, it will become possible again for industrial designers to lead the discussion of humanity and technology in a single and productive conversation. (shrink)