ScottAikin offers a much-needed comprehensive treatment of the Clifford-James debate on the ethics of belief. He aims to present the core arguments of William Clifford’s The Ethics of Belief and William James’ The Will to Believe and to provide commentary . Aikin begins by discussing Clifford’s ship owner case . Knowing that his ship is old, poorly built, and often needs repairs, the ship owner chooses to ignore the evidence and instead focuses on the character of (...) the ship-builders and his feeling that providence will protect the passengers. As a consequence, the ship owner believes that all will be well. All is not well, and many innocents lose their lives. By overlooking the evidence and believing that less relevant factors rendered the decision to set sail a sound one, the ship owner has committed a crime. Had the ship safely completed its journey, the ship owner is still guilty, as lives were still endangered and only luck prevented a disaster. Commenting on anoth .. (shrink)
We are rational creatures, in that we are beings on whom demands of rationality are appropriate. But by our rationality it doesn't follow that we always live up to those demands. In those cases, we fail to be rational, but it is in a way that is different from how rocks, tadpoles, and gum fail to be rational. For them, we use the term ‘arational.’ They don't have the demands, but we do. The demands of rationality bear on us because (...) we have minds that can move us to act, inspire us to create, and bring us to believe in ways that are responsible and directed. My interests here are the demands rationality places on our beliefs. Beliefs aim at the truth, and so one of the demands of being a rational creature with beliefs is that we manage them in a way that is pursuant of the truth. Reasons and reasoning play the primary role in that management – we ought to believe on the basis of good reasons. That is, if you believe something, you think that you're right about the world in some way or another. You believe because you think that something is true. Now, p's truth is different from all ways it could be false, and your being right about p isn't just some arbitrary commitment, one that could just as well have been its negation. This non-arbitrary specificity of beliefs is constituted by the fact that they are held on the basis of reasons. Arguments are our model for how these reasons go – we offer some premises and show how they support a conclusion. Of course, arbitrary premises won't do, so you've got to have some reason for holding them as opposed to some others. Every premise, then, is a conclusion in need of an argument, and for arguments to be acceptable, we've got to do due diligence on the premises. This, however, leads to a disturbing pattern – for every premise we turn into a conclusion, we've got at least one other premise in need of another argument. Pretty soon, even the simplest arguments are going to get very, very complicated. (shrink)
In the last decade, the familiar problem of the regress of reasons has returned to prominent consideration in epistemology. And with the return of the problem, evaluation of the options available for its solution is begun anew. Reason’s regress problem, roughly put, is that if one has good reasons to believe something, one must have good reason to hold those reasons are good. And for those reasons, one must have further reasons to hold they are good, and so a regress (...) of reasons looms. In this new study, Aikin presents a full case for infinitism as a response to the problem of the regress of reasons. Infinitism is the view that one must have a non-terminating chain of reasons in order to be justified. The most defensible form of infinitism, he argues, is that of a mixed theory – that is, epistemic infinitism must be consistent with and integrate other solutions to the regress problem. (shrink)
ScottAikin’s Evidentialism and the Will to Believe is the first book-length discussion of W.K. Clifford’s 1877 “The Ethics of Belief ” and William James’s 1896 “The Will to Believe.” Except for twenty pages, the book splits evenly between a detailed discussion of the two essays. A good book demands some good criticism, and I am hoping that the comments I make are read in that light. Evidentialism and the Will to Believe appears in the Bloomsbury Research in (...) Analytic Philosophy series. Presumably because the book was written for this series, the discussion of historical context is kept to a minimum, and references to other writings of Clifford and James, and to the secondary literature, are scant. (shrink)
In this paper, the authors argue for two main claims: first, that the epistemic results of group deliberation can be superior to those of individual inquiry; and, second, that successful deliberative groups depend on individuals exhibiting deliberative virtues. The development of these group-deliberative virtues, the authors argue, is important not only for epistemic purposes but political purposes, as democracies require the virtuous deliberation of their citizens. Deliberative virtues contribute to the deliberative synergy of the group, not only in terms of (...) improving the quality of the group's present decisions, but also improving the background conditions for continued group deliberation. The authors sketch a preliminary schedule of these group-deliberative virtues modelled on Aristotle's conception of virtue as the mean between two extreme vices. The virtues discussed in this article include deliberative wit, friendliness, empathy, charity, temperance, courage, sincerity, and humility. (shrink)
What follows is a taxonomy of arguments that regresses of inferential justification are vicious. They fall out into four general classes: conceptual arguments from incompleteness, conceptual arguments from arbitrariness, ought-implies-can arguments from human quantitative incapacities, and ought-implies can arguments from human qualitative incapacities. They fail with a developed theory of "infinitism" consistent with valuational pluralism and modest epistemic foundationalism.
Why We Argue : A Guide to Political Disagreement presents an accessible and engaging introduction to the theory of argument, with special emphasis on the way argument works in public political debate. The authors develop a view according to which proper argument is necessary for one’s individual cognitive health; this insight is then expanded to the collective health of one’s society. Proper argumentation, then, is seen to play a central role in a well-functioning democracy. Written in a lively style and (...) filled with examples drawn from the real world of contemporary politics, and questions following each chapter to encourage discussion, Why We Argue : A Guide to Political Disagreement reads like a guide for the participation in, and maintenance of, modern democracy. An excellent student resource for courses in critical thinking, political philosophy, and related fields, Why We Argue : A Guide to Political Disagreement is an important contribution to reasoned debate. (shrink)
My objective in this paper is to compare two philosophical problems, the problem of the criterion and the problem of deep disagreement, and note a core similarity which explains why many proposed solutions to these problems seem to fail along similar lines. From this observation, I propose a kind of skeptical solution to the problem of deep disagreement, and this skeptical program has consequences for the problem as it manifests in political epistemology and metaphilosophy.
There is a widely held concern that using war and sport metaphors to describe argument contributes to the breakdown of argumentative processes. The thumbnail version of this worry about such metaphors is that they promote adversarial conceptions of argument that lead interlocutors with those conceptions to behave adversarially in argumentative contexts. These actions are often aggressive, which undermines argument exchange by either excluding many from such exchanges or turning exchanges more into verbal battles. These worries are legitimate as far as (...) they go, and given that well-run argumentation is a good thing, we would be remiss not to consider whether our vocabulary inhibits argument's proper functioning. .. (shrink)
I will assume here the defenses of epistemic infinitism are adequate and inquire as to the variety standpoints within the view. I will argue that infinitism has three varieties depending on the strength of demandingness of the infinitist requirement and the purity of its conception of epistemic justification, each of which I will term strong pure, strong impure, and weak impure infinitisms. Further, I will argue that impure infinitisms have the dialectical advantage.
The origins of pragmatism -- Pragmatism and epistemology -- Pragmatism and truth -- Pragmatism and metaphysics -- Pragmatism and ethics -- Pragmatism and politics -- Pragmatism and environmental ethics.
In this paper, I will argue for a complex of three theses. First, that the problem of deep disagreement is an instance of the regress problem of justification. Second, that the problem of deep disagreement, as a regress problem, depends on a dialecticality requirement for arguments. Third, that the dialecticality requirement is plausible and defensible.
Pragmatism's naturalism is inconsistent with the phenomenological tradition's anti-naturalism. This poses a problem for the methodological consistency of phenomenological work in the pragmatist tradition. Solutions such as phenomenologizing naturalism or naturalizing phenomenology have been proposed, but they fail. As a consequence, pragmatists and other naturalists must answer the phenomenological tradition's criticisms of naturalism.
The Pragmatism Reader is the essential anthology of this important philosophical movement. Each selection featured here is a key writing by a leading pragmatist thinker, and represents a distinctively pragmatist approach to a core philosophical problem. The collection includes work by pragmatism's founders, Charles Peirce, William James, and John Dewey, as well as seminal writings by mid-twentieth-century pragmatists such as Sidney Hook, C. I. Lewis, Nelson Goodman, Rudolf Carnap, Wilfrid Sellars, and W.V.O. Quine. This reader also includes the most important (...) work in contemporary pragmatism by philosophers like Susan Haack, Cornel West, Hilary Putnam, Richard Rorty, Cheryl Misak, and Robert Brandom. Each selection is a stand-alone piece--not an excerpt or book chapter--and each is presented fully unabridged. The Pragmatism Reader challenges the notion that pragmatism fell into a midcentury decline and was dormant until the advent of "neopragmatism" in the 1980s. This comprehensive anthology reveals a rich and highly influential tradition running unbroken through twentieth-century philosophy and continuing today. It shows how American pragmatist philosophers have contributed to leading philosophical debates about truth, meaning, knowledge, experience, belief, existence, justification, and freedom. Covers pragmatist philosophy from its origins to today Features key writings by the leading pragmatist thinkers Demonstrates the continuity and enduring influence of pragmatism Challenges prevailing notions about pragmatism Includes only stand-alone pieces, completely unabridged Reflects the full range of pragmatist themes, arguments, concerns, and commitments. (shrink)
Though textbook tu quoque arguments are fallacies of relevance, many versions of arguments from hypocrisy are indirectly relevant to the issue. Some arguments from hypocrisy are challenges to the authority of a speaker on the basis of either her sincerity or competency regarding the issue. Other arguments from hypocrisy purport to be evidence of the impracticability of the opponent’s proposals. Further, some versions of hypocrisy charges from impracticability are open to a counter that I will term tu quoque judo.
Epistemic infinitism is the view that infinite series of inferential relations are productive of epistemic justification. Peirce is explicitly infinitist in his early work, namely his 1868 series of articles. Further, Peirce's semiotic categories of firsts, seconds, and thirds favors a mixed theory of justification. The conclusion is that Peirce was an infinitist, and particularly, what I will term an impure infinitist. However, the prospects for Peirce's infinitism depend entirely on the prospects for Peirce's early semantics, which are not good. (...) Peirce himself revised the semantic theory later, and in so doing, it seems also his epistemic infinitism. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue for three theses. First, that the problem of Deep Disagreement is usefully understood as an instance of the skeptical Problem of the Criterion. Second, there are structural similarities between proposed optimistic answers to deep disagreement and the problem of the criterion. Third, in light of these similarities, there are both good and bad consequences for proposed solutions to the problem of deep disagreement.
Abstract Epistemic infinitism is certainly not a majority view in contemporary epistemology. While there are some examples of infinitism in the history of philosophy, more work needs to be done mining this history in order to provide a richer understanding of how infinitism might be formulated internal to different philosophical frameworks. Accordingly, we argue that the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas can be read as operating according to an ?impure? model of epistemic infinitism. The infinite obligation inaugurated by the ?face to (...) face encounter? with the Other yields an approach to the ethics of belief that accords with infinitism. This reading of Levinas brings his ethical thought into dialogue with contemporary epistemology as well as provides an historical example of infinitism within the current debates. (shrink)
This essay summarizes the research program developed in our new book, Why We Argue : A Guide to Political Disagreement. Humans naturally want to know and to take themselves as having reason on their side. Additionally, many people take democracy to be a uniquely proper mode of political arrangement. There is an old tension between reason and democracy, however, and it was first articulated by Plato. Plato’s concern about democracy was that it detached political decision from reason. Epistemic democrats attempt (...) to show how the two can be re-attached. What is necessary is to couple the core democratic liberties with norms of rational exchange. Thus epistemology and argument provides a basis for democratic politics. Why We Argue makes a case for the connection and develops a toolkit for maintaining it. (shrink)
Theism is a cluster of views. The first of which is that God exists. Others are that God has all the relevant omni-attributes, that He created the world, and that He communicates with and performs miracles on behalf of humans. There is one additional view that is often overlooked. It is that humans are obligated to worship God. Importantly, this issue of worship is of central importance to traditional theism. And it extends into pagan thought that predates Christianity. Take, for (...) example Epicurus' deployment of the argument from evil: If god is willing to prevent evil, then he is not omnipotent. If he is able but unwilling, then he is malevolent. If he is able and willing, from whence comes evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god? (shrink)
Evidentialism is the view that subjects should believe neither more than nor contrary to what their current evidence supports. I will critically present two arguments for the view. A common source of resistance to evidentialism is that there are intuitive cases where subjects should believe contrary to their evidence. I will present modest evidentialism as the view that subjects should believe in accord with what their evidence supports, but that this norm may be overridden under certain conditions. As such, a (...) modest evidentialismaccommodates the intuitions behind a good deal of traditional anti-evidentialism. (shrink)
This article poses two regresses for justification of moral knowledge and discusses three models for moral epistemic infinitism that arise. There are moral infinitisms dependent on empirical infinitism, what are called “piggyback” moral infinitisms. There are substantive empiricist moral infinitisms, requiring infinite chains of descriptive facts to justify normative rules. These empiricist infinitisms are developed either as infinitist egoisms or as infinitist sentimentalisms. And, finally, there are substantive rationalist moral infinitisms, requiring infinite chains of normative reasons to justify moral rules. (...) Rationalist moral infinitism is posed as a mixed view integrating moral intuitions with the demand for justifying reasons. (shrink)
The thesis that scientiﬁc inquiry must operate within moral constraints is familiar and unobjectionable in cases involving immoral treatment of experimental subjects, as in the infamous Tuskegee experiments. However, in Science, Truth, and Democracy1 and related work,2 Philip Kitcher envisions a more controversial set of constraints. Speciﬁcally, he argues that inquiry ought not to be pursued in cases where the consequences of its pursuit are likely to affect negatively the lives of individuals who comprise a socially underprivileged group. This constraint (...) is controversial because it imposes moral obligations upon scientiﬁc inquirers that they do not have as moral agents generally.3 That is, whereas the familiar prohibitions against the violation of the rights of experimental subjects amount to the enforcement of fundamental moral obligations in the laboratory and the denial that such obligations can be overridden for the sake of scientiﬁc discovery, Kitcher argues that scientists incur in virtue of their role as scientists a set of distinctive moral obligations with regard to individuals belonging to underprivileged groups. In this way, Kitcher is proposing an autonomous ethics of inquiry rather than arguing for the extension of familiar moral obligations to scientiﬁc inquiry. (shrink)
A common argument for evidentialism is that the norms of assertion, specifically those bearing on warrant and assertability, regulate belief. On this assertoric model of belief, a constitutive condition for belief is that the believing subject take her belief to be supported by sufficient evidence. An equally common source of resistance to these arguments is the plausibility of cases in which a speaker, despite the fact that she lacks warrant to assert that p, nevertheless attributes to herself the belief that (...) p. In the following, I will outline a variety of ways a speaker may contrastively attribute a belief to herself. In light of what these contrastive statements communicate, cases of attributing beliefs with little or no warrant to oneself offer no substantive counter-example to the evidentialist argument from assertion. (shrink)
There is a tension with regard to regulative norms of inquiry. One’s commitments must survive critical scrutiny, and if they do not survive, they should be revised. Alternately, for views to be adequately articulated and defended, their proponents must maintain a strong commitment to the views in question. A solution is proposed with the notion of holding one’s own as the virtue of being reason-responsive with the prospects of improving the view in question.
The skeptical challenge to politics is that if knowledge is in short supply and it is a condition for the proper use of political power, then there is very little just politics. Cicero’s Republicanism is posed as a program for political legitimacy wherein both citizens and their states are far from ideal. The result is a form of what is termed negative conservatism, which shows political gridlock in a more positive light.
Classical pragmatism is committed to the thought that philosophy must be relevant to ordinary life. This commitment is frequently employed critically: to show that some idea is irrelevant to ordinary life is to prove it to be expendable. But the commitment is also constructive: pragmatists must strive to make their positive views relevant. Accordingly, one would expect the classical pragmatists to have fixed their attention on ethics, since this is the area of philosophy most attuned to everyday problems. Although ethics (...) was among Dewey’s persistent interests, Peirce wrote almost nothing on the subject, and James wrote very little. But what James did write exerts considerable influence on contemporary pragmatists, many of whom make frequent appeals to the dual components of James’s ethics, pluralism and meliorism. In this paper, we will pose three challenges to Jamesian ethics. As James’s ethics is unique, we begin with a sketch of his view. (shrink)
It is impolite to discuss matters of religion or politics in mixed company. So goes the popular adage which all of us were supposed to have learned as children from our mothers. Let's call it Mom's Maxim. We tend to accept Mom's Maxim. But is it philosophically sound? In this short essay, we raise some objections to Mom's Maxim and make a case for an alternative which we call Mill's Principle.
John Dewey points out in A Common Faith (1934) that what stands in the way of religious belief for many is the apparent commitment of Western religious traditions to supernatural phenomena and questionable historical claims. We are to accept claims that in any other context we would find laughable. Are we to believe that water can be turned into wine without the benefit of the fermentation process? Are we to swallow the claim that there is such a phenomenon as the (...) spontaneous conception of a child without the intervention of the traditional technique? Were we to confront these claims in any but a religious context, we would dismiss them as the workings of an overactive imagination or simple cover for an overactive sex life. But for the devout believer, there is no doubt even with a paucity of evidence. At the same time, the rise of science has forcibly suggested the idea that the natural world is self-contained and, if explainable, that explanation will come from within. There seems to be no room for the traditional God and, much as one might wish otherwise, nothing for him to do. Perhaps... (shrink)