In this paper, I explore the relationship between epistemic rationality and instrumental rationality, and I attempt to delineate their respective roles in typical instances of theoretical reasoning. My primary concern is with the instrumentalist conception of epistemic rationality: the view that epistemic rationality is simply a species of instrumental rationality, viz. instrumental rationality in the service of one's cognitive or epistemic goals. After sketching the relevance of the instrumentalist conception to debates over naturalism and 'the ethics of belief', I argue (...) that, despite enjoying considerable popularity among both epistemologists and philosophers of science, it is ultimately indefensible. Having thus argued for the distinctness of epistemic and instrumental rationality, I attempt to clarify the role played by each in typical instances of theoretical reasoning. I suggest that being theoretically rational--that is, being proficient with respect to theoretical reasoning--is best construed as a hybrid virtue, inasmuch as it involves manifesting sensitivity to two very different kinds of reasons. (shrink)
Looking back on it, it seems almost incredible that so many equally educated, equally sincere compatriots and contemporaries, all drawing from the same limited stock of evidence, should have reached so many totally different conclusions---and always with complete certainty.
My aim in this paper is to develop and defend a novel answer to a question that has recently generated a considerable amount of controversy. The question concerns the normative significance of peer disagreement. Suppose that you and I have been exposed to the same evidence and arguments that bear on some proposition: there is no relevant consideration which is available to you but not to me, or vice versa. For the sake of concreteness, we might picture.
The concept of evidence is central to both epistemology and the philosophy of science. Of course, ‘evidence’ is hardly a philosopher's term of art: it is not only, or even primarily, philosophers who routinely speak of evidence, but also lawyers and judges, historians and scientists, investigative journalists and reporters, as well as the members of numerous other professions and ordinary folk in the course of everyday life. The concept of evidence would thus seem to be on firmer pre-theoretical ground than (...) various other concepts which enjoy similarly central standing within philosophy. (Contrast, for example, the epistemologist's quasi-technical term ‘epistemic justification’.). (shrink)
In this paper, I explore the question of whether the expected consequences of holding a belief can affect the rationality of doing so. Special attention is given to various ways in which one might attempt to exert some measure of control over what one believes and the normative status of the beliefs that result from the successful execution of such projects. I argue that the lessons which emerge from thinking about the case ofbelief have important implications for the way we (...) should think about the rationality of a number of other propositional attitudes,such as regret, desire, and fear. Finally,I suggest that a lack of clarity with respect to the relevant issues has given rise to a number of rather serious philosophical mistakes. (shrink)
The concept of evidence is among the central concerns of epistemology broadly construed. As such, it has long engaged the intellectual energies of both philosophers of science and epistemologists of a more traditional variety. Here I briefly survey some of the more important ideas to have emerged from this tradition of reflection. I then look somewhat more closely at an issue that has recently come to the fore, largely as a result of Williamson's Knowledge and Its Limits: that of whether (...) one's evidence supervenes on one's non-factive mental states. (shrink)
Suppose that you and I disagree about some non-straightforward matter of fact (say, about whether capital punishment tends to have a deterrent effect on crime). Psychologists have demonstrated the following striking phenomenon: if you and I are subsequently exposed to a mixed body of evidence that bears on the question, doing so tends to increase the extent of our initial disagreement. That is, in response to exactly the same evidence, each of us grows increasingly confident of his or her original (...) view; we thus become increasingly polarized as our common evidence increases. I consider several alternative models of how people reason about newly-acquired evidence which seems to disconfirm their prior beliefs. I then explore the normative implications of these models for the phenomenon in question. (shrink)
According to one view about the rationality of belief, such rationality is ultimately nothing other than the rationality that one exhibits in taking the means to one’s ends. On this view, epistemic rationality is really a species or special case of instrumental rationality. In particular, epistemic rationality is instrumental rationality in the service of one’s distinctively cognitive or epistemic goals (perhaps: one’s goal of holding true rather than false beliefs). In my (2003), I dubbed this view the instrumentalist conception of (...) epistemic rationality. (shrink)
A Moorean fact, in the words of the late David Lewis, is ‘one of those things that we know better than we know the premises of any philosophical argument to the contrary’. Lewis opens his seminal paper ‘Elusive Knowledge’ with the following declaration.
In this paper, I explore the question of whether the expected consequences of holding a belief can affect the rationality of doing so. Special attention is given to various ways in which one might attempt to exert some measure of control over what one believes and the normative status of the beliefs that result from the successful execution of such projects. I argue that the lessons which emerge from thinking about the case of belief have important implications for the way (...) we should think about the rationality of a number of other propositional attitudes, such as regret, desire, and fear. Finally, I suggest that a lack of clarity with respect to the relevant issues has given rise to a number of rather serious philosophical mistakes. (shrink)
Throughout the history of western philosophy, the Socratic injunction to ‘follow the argument where it leads’ has exerted a powerful attraction. But what is it, exactly, to follow the argument where it leads? I explore this intellectual ideal and offer a modest proposal as to how we should understand it. On my proposal, following the argument where it leaves involves a kind of modalized reasonableness. I then consider the relationship between the ideal and common sense or ‘Moorean’ responses to revisionary (...) philosophical theorizing. (shrink)
Suppose that one is at least a minimal realist about a given domain, in that one thinks that that domain contains truths that are not in any interesting sense of our own making. Given such an understanding, what can be said for and against the method of reflective equilibrium as a procedure for investigating the domain? One fact that lends this question some interest is that many philosophers do combine commitments to minimal realism and a reflective equilibrium methodology. Here, for (...) example, is David Lewis on philosophy: Our “intuitions” are simply opinions: our philosophical theories are the same. Some are commonsensical, some are sophisticated; some are particular; some general; some are more firmly held, some less. But they are all opinions, and a reasonable goal for a philosopher is to bring them into equilibrium. Our common task it to find out what equilibria there are that can withstand examination, but it remains for each of us to come to rest at one or another of them… Once the menu of well-worked out theories is before us, philosophy is a matter of opinion. Is that to say that there is no truth to be had? Or that the truth is of our own making, and different ones of us can make it differently? Not at all! If you say flatly that there is no god, and I say that there are countless gods but none of them are our worldmates, then it may be that neither of us is making any mistake of method. We may each be bringing our opinions to equilibrium in the most careful possible way, taking account of all the arguments, distinctions, and counterexamples. But one of us, at least, is making a mistake of fact. Which one is wrong depends on what there is (1983: x-xi). In addition to philosophy in general, the method of reflective equilibrium has also been endorsed as the appropriate procedure for investigating various other subject.. (shrink)
In this age of post-Moorean modesty, many of us are inclined to doubt that philosophy is in possession of arguments that might genuinely serve to undermine what we ordinarily believe. It may perhaps be conceded that the arguments of the skeptic appear to be utterly compelling; but the Mooreans among us will hold that the very plausibility of our ordinary beliefs is reason enough for supposing that there must be something wrong in the skeptic’s arguments, even if we are unable (...) to say what it is. In so far then, as the pretensions of philosophy to provide a world view rest upon its.. (shrink)
Roger’s official statement of the thesis that he defends reads as follows: Uniqueness : If an agent whose total evidence is E is fully rational in taking doxastic attitude D to P, then necessarily, any subject with total evidence E who takes a different attitude to P is less than fully rational. Following Roger, I’ll call someone who denies Uniqueness a Permissivist . In what follows, I’ll argue against Uniqueness and defend Permissivism.
Those who favor externalist accounts of knowledge and justification often accuse their internalist opponents of playing into the hands of skeptic. According to this line of thought, internalists characteristically set overly demanding requirements for knowledge and justification, requirements which ordinary believers infrequently satisfy: the internalist is thus committed by his or her own theory to a massive and implausible revisionism about the extent of what we know and justifiably believe. For reasons that I explore, the version of internalist foundationalism developed (...) by BonJour might seem particularly vulnerable to this charge. Given this, one of the most striking and provocative claims of the present work is BonJour's insistence that his theory fares no worse than--and indeed, compares favorably with--Sosa's externalist virtue theory with respect to the issue of skepticism. My primary concern in this short paper is to evaluate BonJour's claim. (shrink)
During the short span of a few months in 2008, 14 trillion dollars of highly rated bonds fell into junk status, surprising the global financial system and accelerating an economic decline. The result was the worst fracture of the US financial system since the Great Depression. Credit rating agencies (CRAs) in particular have come under intense scrutiny as a result of this latest disaster, both domestically and internationally, including many congressional inquiries and government investigations. Most of the public and scholarly (...) discussions about CRAs focus on reforming the financial system so that the crisis of the magnitude of the 2008 disaster will not happen again. An important overtone of industry criticisms includes a sense of ethical impropriety on the part of CRAs and ethical uncertainty about the institutional mechanisms that are currently in place. Rarely, however, are the ethics of the industry the explicit subject of analysis. In this article, we discuss the lessons from the policy debates and recent legislation to develop an account of the ethics of the CRA industry. (shrink)
In the last two decades, there has been a pronounced growth of CSR rating agencies that assess corporations based on their social and environmental performance. This article investigates the impact of CSR ratings on the behavior of individual corporations. To what extent do corporations adjust their behavior based on how they rank? Our primary finding is that being dropped from a CSR ranking appears to do little to encourage firms to acknowledge and address problems related to their social and environmental (...) performance. Specific rankings appear not to have a widespread effect of influencing firms to acknowledge negative CSR events and publicly present plans and actions to address them. Whether firms are well or poorly ranked, they appear to focus on and publicly discuss their “positive” CSR activities. We discuss the wider significance of these results as well as the overall significance of CSR rankings for a global economy. (shrink)
If you are more likely to continue a course of action in virtue of having previously invested in that course of action, then you tend to honor sunk costs. It is widely thought both that (i) individuals often do give some weight to sunk costs in their decision-making and that (ii) it is irrational for them to do so. In this paper I attempt to cast doubt on the conventional wisdom about sunk costs, understood as the conjunction of these two (...) claims. (shrink)
With respect to inductive reasoning, there are at least two broad projects that have been of interest to philosophers. The first project is that of accurately describing paradigmatic instances of inductive reasoning in the sciences and in everyday life. Thus, we might ask, of some particular historical episode, how exactly Newton, or Darwin, or Einstein arrived at some conclusion on the basis of the evidence that was before him. The second project is one of justification. The task here is that (...) of showing why paradigmatic inductive reasoning is good reasoning, or why skeptical challenges which purport to undermine the legitimacy of such reasoning fail to do so. As I understand it, this second, justificatory project prominently includes, but is not limited to, the task of either solving or dissolving Hume’s skeptical critique of induction. Neither of these projects is trivial. Indeed, many think that we are currently far from successfully completing either one. But in any case, it would seem that the descriptive project has a certain priority to the justification project. After all, how could one justify our inductive practices, or defend them against skeptical challenge, in the absence of some reasonably detailed and accurate description of those practices? Given this apparent priority, it is a striking fact that the justification project has often been pursued in the absence of any significant attention to the project of accurate description. In particular, a great deal of the traditional discussion of Hume’s problem of induction has proceeded against the background of hopelessly crude models of our actual inductive practice—a fact sometimes acknowledged by participants in such discussions themselves. Plausibly, the thought which underlies this procedure is the following: whatever force Hume’s critique ultimately possesses, that force is not tied to the specific content of the general rules or principles that we follow in reasoning inductively. Rather, the force of Hume’s critique depends on our following any general rules or principles at all.. (shrink)
St. Amand could count among his many feats the extraordinary achievement of social equilibrium. “The way he was in the midst of the rich and the poor,” his hagiographer marveled, “the poor saw him as a poor man, and the rich treated him as their better.” On a résumé of miracles performed and peoples converted, this accomplishment was no less impressive. Bishops in the post-Roman kingdoms of Gaul/Francia maintained an ongoing balancing act between seeking social and political distinction, on the (...) one hand, and fulfilling their obligation to defend the poor, on the other. Their authority increasingly depended upon both, even as it engendered a tension between elitism and inclusivity. To study bishops' choice of company is therefore to highlight the difficulty inherent in an ambitious pastoral and political positioning. Linked to the subject of the episcopal entourage, and to the issue of episcopal authority and its representation more generally, was a change in the culture of Merovingian government, for bishops were becoming more and more valuable to a monarchy that confronted new standards of responsibility toward its subjects. (shrink)
This essay consists of an exploration of the relation between Aquinas and Heidegger as this is discussed in the work of John Caputo, and an attempt, in the light of what is learned from the previous discussion, to rethink the essence of Thomistic metaphysics in a way that is both faithful to the spirit of Thomism, remaining attentive to its mystical source, and alive to the mystery of Being in a Heideggerian sense. In this way the argumental structure central to (...) that metaphysics is treated as a Wittgensteinian ladder that we can kick away, that is, which auto-deconstructs, thereby placing us before unlimited, unqualified existence, the Difference between existence and nothingness. The essay ends with a suggestion for a transformation of Heidegger’s Denken along lines suggested by this rethinking of Thomism. A reply by John Caputo follows the essay. (shrink)
Among the literary arts of the Middle Ages, the creation of texts within strict parameters held a fascination for many poets. Acrostic poems, tricky meters, frequent rhyme, and other limitations often spurred those who sought expression in words.
This essay consists of (a) an exploration of the relation between Aquinas and Heidegger as this is discussed in the work of John Caputo, and (b) an attempt, in the light of what is learned from the previous discussion, to rethink the essence of Thomistic metaphysics in a way that is both faithful to the spirit of Thomism, remaining attentive to its mystical source, and alive to the mystery of Being in a Heideggerian sense. In this way the argumental structure (...) central to that metaphysics is treated as a Wittgensteinian ladder that we can kick away, that is, which auto-deconstructs, thereby placing us before unlimited, unqualified existence, the Difference between existence and nothingness. The essay ends with a suggestion for a transformation of Heidegger’s Denken along lines suggested by this rethinking of Thomism. A reply by John Caputo follows the essay. (shrink)