The grand and sweeping claims of many relativists might seem to amount to the argument that everything is relative--except the thesis of relativism. In this book, Steven Hales defends relativism, but in a more circumscribed form that applies specifically to philosophical propositions. His claim is that philosophical propositions are relatively true--true in some perspectives and false in others. Hales defends this argument first by examining rational intuition as the method by which philosophers come to have the beliefs they do. Analytic (...) rationalism, he claims, has a foundational reliance on rational intuition as a method of acquiring basic beliefs. He then argues that there are other methods that people use to gain beliefs about philosophical topics that are strikingly analogous to rational intuition and examines two of these: Christian revelation and the ritual use of hallucinogens. Hales argues that rational intuition is not epistemically superior to either of these alternative methods. There are only three possible outcomes: we have no philosophical knowledge ; there are no philosophical propositions ; or there are knowable philosophical propositions, but our knowledge of them is relative to doxastic perspective. Hales defends relativism against the charge that it is self-refuting and answers a variety of objections to this account of relativism. Finally, he examines the most sweeping objection to relativism: that philosophical propositions are not merely relatively true, because there are no philosophical propositions--all propositions are ultimately empirical, as the naturalists contend. Hales's somewhat disturbing conclusion--that intuition-driven philosophy does produce knowledge, but not absolute knowledge--is sure to inspire debate among philosophers. (shrink)
The present paper offers an analogical support for the use of rational intuition, namely, if we regard sense perception as a mental faculty that (in general) delivers justified beliefs, then we should treat intuition in the same manner. I will argue that both the cognitive marks of intuition and the role it traditionally plays in epistemology are strongly analogous to that of perception, and barring specific arguments to the contrary, we should treat rational intuition as a source of prima facie (...) justified beliefs. There are two main arguments against the intuition-perception analogy that I will consider and find lacking. First is that while we do use perceptions as evidence to believe certain propositions, in fact no one ever does use intuition evidentially. The second argument, stemming from experimental philosophy, grants that philosophers do use intuitions evidentially, but this practice is fatally unlike that of perception, in that perception yields warranted beliefs and intuition does not. (shrink)
There are two main theories about the persistence of objects through time: endurantism and perdurantism. Endurantists hold that objects are three-dimensional, have only spatial parts, and wholly exist at each moment of their existence. Perdurantists hold that objects are four-dimensional, have temporal parts, and only partly exist at each moment of their existence. In this paper we argue that endurantism is poorly suited to describe the persistence of objects in a world governed by Special Relativity, and can accommodate a relativistic (...) world only at a high price, one that we argue is not worth paying. Perdurantism, on the other hand, fits beautifully with our current scientific understanding of the world. Furthermore, we make this argument from implications of the Lorentz transformations, without appeals to geometrical interpretations, dimensional analogies, or auxillary premises like temporal eternalism. (shrink)
There are three theories of luck in the literature, each of which tends to appeal to philosophers pursuing different concerns. These are the probability, modal, and control views. I will argue that all three theories are irreparably defective; not only are there counterexamples to each of the three theories of luck, but there are three previously undiscussed classes of counterexamples against them. These are the problems of lucky necessities, skillful luck, and diachronic luck. I conclude that a serious reevaluation of (...) the role of luck in philosophy is called for. (shrink)
Relativism is one of the most tenacious theories about truth, with a pedigree as old as philosophy itself. Nearly as ancient is the chief criticism of relativism, namely the charge that the theory is self-refuting. This paper develops a logic of relativism that (1) illuminates the classic self-refutation charge and shows how to escape it; (2) makes rigorous the ideas of truth as relative and truth as absolute, and shows the relations between them; (3) develops an intensional logic for relativism; (...) (4) provides a framework in which relativists can consistently promote ethical, mathematical, scientific, religious, and political truths (among others) as being relative; (5) argues that the notion of incommensurability is far less troubling than is commonly thought; and (6) argues that the concept of a perspective as needed by the theory is not prey to Davidson's well-known critique of conceptual schemes. The paper will not defend relativism as the correct theory of truth, nor will it provide a fully satisfying theory about the nature of a perspective. The logic of relativism is primarily meant to provide a formal framework in which relativists can consistently develop their theories. This alone is a considerable step forward, since the debate about relativism often founders upon the rock of self-refutation. It is argued that while 'everything is relative' is inconsistent, 'everything true is relatively true' is not. The latter is all a relativist really needs. (shrink)
This paper evaluates a number of closure principles (for both knowledge and justification) that have appeared in the literature. Counterexamples are presented to all but one of these principles, which is conceded to be true but trivially so. It is argued that a consequence of the failure of these closure principles is that certain projects of doxastic logic are doomed, and that doxastic logic is of dubious merit for epistemologists interested in actual knowers in the actual world.
The present paper poses a new problem for moral luck. Defenders of moral luck uncritically rely on a broader theory of luck known as the control theory or the lack of control theory. However, there are are two other analyses of luck in the literature that dominate discussion in epistemology, namely the probability and modal theories. However, moral luck is nonexistent under the probability and modal accounts, but the control theory cannot explain epistemic luck. While some have posited that “luck” (...) is ambiguous, so that one theory of luck is operative with epistemic luck and a different theory works for moral luck, there are both semantic and philosophical reasons to reject luck ambiguity. Defenders of moral luck must engage with the broader literature on luck and either provide a comprehensive defense of the control theory or concede that moral luck is not a genuine thing in its own right. (shrink)
Philosophers have developed three theories of luck: the probability theory, the modal theory, and the control theory. To help assess these theories, we conducted an empirical investigation of luck attributions. We created eight putative luck scenarios and framed each in either a positive or a negative light. Furthermore, we placed the critical luck event at the beginning, middle, or end of the scenario to see if the location of the event influenced luck attributions. We found that attributions of luckiness were (...) significantly influenced by the framing of the scenario and by the location of the critical event. Positively framing an event led to significantly higher lucky ratings than negatively framing the same exact event. And the closer a negative event was placed toward the end of a scenario, the more unlucky the event was rated. Overall, our results raise the possibility that there is no such thing as luck and thereby pose serious challenges to the three prominent theories of luck. We instead propose that luck may be a cognitive illusion, a mere narrative device used to frame stories of success or failure. (shrink)
In the present paper, I offer a new argument to show that presentism about time is incompatible with time travel. Time travel requires leaving the present, which, under presentism, contains all of reality. Therefore to leave the present moment is to leave reality entirely; i.e. to go out of existence. Presentist “time travel” is therefore best seen as a form of suicide, not as a mode of transportation. Eternalists about time do not face the same difficulty, and time travel is (...) compossible with eternalism. (shrink)
Traditional philosophy relies heavily on the use of rational intuition to establish theses and conclusions. This essay takes up the matter of intuition and argues for a stunning conclusion: appeal to rational intuition is epistemically justified only if a form of foundationalism is true. This type of foundationalism is the thesis that there is at least one proposition whose justification depends on nothing other than itself. The article also argues that unless we can establish that some intuitions are justified, philosophy (...) as an enterprise that provides non-empirical knowledge is impossible. Not to put too fine a point on it then: philosophy is possible only if foundationalism is true. Whether this should be construed as the strongest possible defense of foundationalism, or the greatest objection to the pretensions of philosophy is left to the reader. (shrink)
In "Nietzsche's Perspectivism", Steven Hales and Rex Welshon offer an analytic approach to Nietzsche's important idea that truth is perspectival. Drawing on Nietzsche's entire published corpus, along with manuscripts he never saw to press, they assess the different perspectivisms at work in Nietzsche's views with regard to truth, logic, causality, knowledge, consciousness, and the self. They also examine Nietzsche's perspectivist ontology of power and the attendant claims that substances and subjects are illusory while forces and alliances of power constitute the (...) only reality. Hales and Welshon present Nietzsche's treatment of perspectivism as both more complex and more fruitful than the common view of it as a doctrine that truth is not objective. Neither a metaphor nor a methodology, perspectivism emerges as a protean concept akin to a unifying theme; an alternative to the absolutism that recurs in science, philosophy, and religion; and a technique for revealing the unimagined possibilities open to every individual. (shrink)
We argue that Nietzsche's interest in truth is more than merely a critical one. He criticizes one historically prominent conception of truth while proposing his own theory, called "perspectivism". However, Nietzsche's truth perspectivism appears to face a self-referential paradox, which is explored in detail. We argue that no commentator has yet solved this puzzle, and then provide our own solution. This solution, which depends upon distinguishing between weak and strong perspectivism while promoting the former, supplies Nietzsche with a consistent truth (...) theory that preserves the bulk of his claims. (shrink)
I argue that evolutionary strategies of kin selection and game-theoretic reciprocity are apt to generate agent-centered and agent- neutral moral intuitions, respectively. Such intuitions are the building blocks of moral theories, resulting in a fundamental schism between agent-centered theories on the one hand and agent-neutral theories on the other. An agent-neutral moral theory is one according to which everyone has the same duties and moral aims, no matter what their personal interests or interpersonal relationships. Agent-centered moral theories deny this and (...) include at least some prescriptions that include ineliminable indexicals. I argue that there are no rational means of bridging the gap between the two types of theories; nevertheless this does not necessitate skepticism about the moral—we might instead opt for an ethical relativism in which the truth of moral statements is relativized to the perspective of moral theories on either side of the schism. Such a relativism does not mean that any ethical theory is as good as any other; some cannot be held in reflective equilibrium, and even among those that can, there may well be pragmatic reasons that motivate the selection of one theory over another. But if no sort of relativism is deemed acceptable, then it is hard to avoid moral skepticism. (shrink)
Nietzsche is infamous for denouncing logic, but despite the importance of logic in contemporary philosophy, there has been very little scholarly attention paid to his criticisms. This paper argues that Nietzsche's antilogic polemics are directed against semantics, which he regards as being committed to a realist metaphysics. It is this metaphysical realism that Nietzsche abhors, not logical syntax or proof theory. Nietzsche is also at pains to critique logicians who naively accept realist semantics. Other interpreters who cast Nietzsche as a (...) logical nihilist are criticized as unjustly neglecting key prologic texts. (shrink)
Several prominent philosophers, including A.J. Ayer and Derek Parfit, have offered the evidentiary requirements for believing human personality can reincarnate, and hence that Cartesian dualism is true. At least one philosopher, Robert Almeder, has argued that there are actual cases which satisfy these requirements. I argue in this paper that even if we grant the empirical data-a large concession-belief in reincarnation is still unjustified. The problem is that without a theoretical account of the alleged cases of reincarnation, the empirical evidence (...) alone does not license giving up materialist theories of the mind. (shrink)
There are two main ways to understand unconditional love. I argue that one is impossible (i.e., no one could love that way) and the other is probably irrational. This has important consequences in a variety of domains. Social policies have been derided on the grounds that they undermine unconditional love, and it has been called "possibly the most valuable aspect of the Christian tradition". The works of Robert Nozick, Elizabeth Anderson, and Richard Taylor on this topic are examined and criticized.
One of the most common views about self-deception ascribes contradictory beliefs to the self-deceiver. In this paper it is argued that this view (the contradiction strategy) is inconsistent with plausible common-sense principles of belief attribution. Other dubious assumptions made by contradiction strategists are also examined. It is concluded that the contradiction strategy is an inadequate account of self-deception. Two other well-known views — those of Robert Audi and Alfred Mele — are investigated and found wanting. A new theory of self-deception (...) relying on an extension of Mark Johnston's subintentional mental tropisms is proposed and defended. (shrink)
Fathers do not have an absolute obligation to provide for the welfare of their children. If mothers have the right to opt out of future duties towards their children by deciding to have an abortion instead, fathers too should be considered to have the right to avoid similar future duties. I also argue that fathers should be granted a mechanism by which they can exercise such a right. The discussion is initially motivated by showing an apparent inconsistency among three widely (...) accepted principles regarding a woman's right to an abortion, equality, and parental obligations. I argue that by allowing fathers (with certain restrictions) to refuse to support their forthcoming progeny, the inconsistency among the three principles is resolved. I also argue that this is the best resolution, and provide three other independent arguments in favor of a paternal right of refusal. (shrink)
This paper is a rejoinder to Robert Almeder's "On Reincarnation: A Reply to Hales". I argue that even if we stipulate the case studies of the reincarnationists to be good data, the explanatory hypothesis of reincarnation is a deus ex machina. Without a comprehensive scientific or philosophical theory of the mind that embeds the reincarnation hypothesis, the view should not be taken seriously. The fact that reincarnation is the first explanation of the case studies that comes to mind says more (...) about us and our culture than it does about which explanations are the most probable ones. (shrink)
This paper defends the view that philosophical propositions are merely relatively true, i.e. true relative to a doxastic perspective defined at least in part by a non-inferential belief-acquiring method. Here is the strategy: first, the primary way that contemporary philosophers defend their views is through the use of rational intuition, and this method delivers non-inferential, basic beliefs which are then systematized and brought into reflective equilibrium. Second, Christian theologians use exactly the same methodology, only replacing intuition with revelation. Third, intuition (...) and revelation yield frequently inconsistent output beliefs. Fourth, there is no defensible reason to prefer the dictates of intuition to those of Christian revelation. Fifth, the resulting dilemma means that there are true philosophical propositions, but we can't know them (scepticism), or there are no philosophical propositions and the naturalists are right (nihilism), or relativism is true. I suggest that relativism is the most palatable of these alternatives. (shrink)
A modest satire on Kant’s moral argument for the existence of God, using Richard Dawkins’s ’The God Delusion’as a jumping-off point. It is written from the first-person perspective of a garden fairy at Kew Gardens.
‘Hello, this is the Women’s Center, may I help you?’ ‘Yeah, uh, hi. I don’t really know if I should be calling you, but a friend of mine told me to call. She thought it was a good idea.’ ‘Sure. Let me ask before we go on – are you in a safe place to talk? Are you in any immediate danger?’ ‘I think I can talk. I dunno, I guess I’m not sure. I mean, I don’t think he’s here (...) right now, but he’s always keeping an eye on me. I never really know if he’s watching or not. I don’t think I’m in immediate danger.’. (shrink)
I offer an interpretation of John Stuart Mill's theory of higher and lower pleasures in his Utilitarianism. I argue that the quality of pleasure is best understood as the density of pleasure per unit of delivery. Mill is illustrated with numerous beer examples.
There are five basic ways to resolve disagreements: keep arguing until capitulation, compromise, locate an ambiguity or contextual factors, accept Pyrrhonian skepticism, and adopt relativism. Relativism is perhaps the most radical and least popular solution to a disagreement, and its defenders generally think the best motivator for relativism is to be found in disputes over predicates of personal taste. I argue that taste predicates do not adequately motivate relativism over the other possible solutions, and argue that relativism looks like the (...) most promising approach when disputants cannot even agree on the meta-evidence for a contested proposition. (shrink)
In this paper I offer a rejoinder to the criticisms raised by Jimmy Alfonso Licon in “No Suicide for Presentists: A Response to Hales.” I argue that Licon's concerns are misplaced, and that his hypothetical presentist time machine neither travels in time nor saves the life of the putative traveler. I conclude that sensible time travel is still forbidden to presentists.
If we agree, along with Arnauld, Berkeley, Descartes, Hume, Leibniz, and others that our occurrent phenomenal states serve as sources of epistemic certainty for us, we need some explanation of this fact. Many contemporary writers, most notably Roderick Chisholm, maintain that there is something special about the phenomenal states themselves that allows our certain knowledge of them. I argue that Chisholm's view is both wrong and irreparable, and that the capacity of humans to know these states with certainty has to (...) do with the contingent cognitive capacities and abilities people have. (shrink)
This paper is a rejoinder to Professor Jim Humber on the issue of fathers' rights. I reaffirm my position that if a woman's right to an abortion is a morally permissible way of avoiding future duties with respect to parenting, then fathers must have a similar moral right and ought to have a way to exercise this right. I consider and rebut Professor Humber's objections to this view.
This paper is a response to Ronald Lehrer's "Perspectivism and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy". Lehrer treats Nietzsche as promoting only a modest perspectivism according to which different cognitive strategies triangulate the truth. We argue that Nietzsche's perspectivism is much more radical, and defensible, than Lehrer admits. We also suggest that Nietzsche's bundle theory of the self has important implications for psychotherapy and the concept of mental health. According to this theory, the self is an aggregate of ever-changing drives and affects. The conditions (...) of health for such persons are similarly mutable, with no one standard applicable to all persons, or even to the same person over time. (shrink)
The present paper is a response to the criticisms that Mark McLeod-Harrison makes of my book Relativism and the Foundations of Philosophy. If secular, intuition-driven rationalist philosophy yields a belief that p, and Christian, revelation-driven epistemic methods yield a belief that not-p, what should we do? Following Alston, McLeod-Harrison argues that Christian philosophers need do nothing, and remains confident that their way is the best. I argue that this is a serious epistemic mistake, and that relativism about philosophical propositions is (...) a superior approach. McLeod-Harrison also raises two objections to my account of relativism, the first against my rejection of the skeptical alternative, and the second attempting to show that I am committed to an epistemic theory of truth. I rebut both arguments. (shrink)
This paper is an overview of the anglophone Nietzsche scholarship of the last 20 years. There are two types of debates raging in Nietzsche scholarship: interpretive disputes over conceptual and philosophical issues arising out of Nietzsche's work, and metainterpretive wrangling over how the philosophical issues should be approached and how Nietzsche's unpublished writings ought to be considered. In the former category, four prominent Nietzschean themes are examined: perspectivism; systematicity, rationality and logic; the revaluation of values; and the self. In the (...) latter category I discuss the role of the Nachlass, feminist interpretations, and the analytic/continental divide. (shrink)
Philosophers like Shoemaker and Burge argue that only self-conscious creatures can exercise rational control over their mental lives. In particular they urge that reflective rationality requires possession of the I-concept, the first person concept. These philosophers maintain that rational creatures like ourselves can exercise reflective control over belief as well as action. I agree that we have this sort of control over our actions and that practical freedom presupposes self-consciousness. But I deny that anything like this is true of belief.
In this article I consider the common claim that the United States is the best country in the world. I examine the factors of freedom, literacy, health, happiness, and wealth, and conclude that the U.S. is 13th best, and that actually Norway is the best country in the world.
_A Companion to Relativism_ presents original contributions from leading scholars that address the latest thinking on the role of relativism in the philosophy of language, epistemology, ethics, philosophy of science, logic, and metaphysics. Features original contributions from many of the leading figures working on various aspects of relativism Presents a substantial, broad range of current thinking about relativism Addresses relativism from many of the major subfields of philosophy, including philosophy of language, epistemology, ethics, philosophy of science, logic, and metaphysics.
A beer-lovers' book which playfully examines a myriad of philosophical concerns related to beer consumption. Effectively demonstrates how real philosophical issues exist just below the surface of our everyday activities Divided into four sections: The Art of the Beer; The Ethics of Beer: Pleasures, Freedom, and Character; The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Beer; and Beer in the History of Philosophy Uses the context of beer to expose George Berkeley’s views on fermented beverages as a medical cure; to inspect Immanuel Kant’s (...) transcendental idealism through beer goggles, and to sort out Friedrich Nietzsche’s simultaneous praise and condemnation of intoxication Written for beer-lovers who want to think while they drink. (shrink)