Magnetism in meta-semantics is the view that the meaning of our words is determined in part by their use and in part by the objective naturalness of candidate meanings. This hypothesis is commonly attributed to David Lewis, and has been put to philosophical work by Brian Weatherson, Ted Sider and others. I argue that there is no evidence that Lewis ever endorsed the view, and that his actual account of language reveals good reasons against it.
I defend a general rule for updating beliefs that takes into account both the impact of new evidence and changes in the subject’s location. The rule combines standard conditioning with a shifting operation that moves the center of each doxastic possibility forward to the next point where information arrives. I show that well-known arguments for conditioning lead to this combination when centered information is taken into account. I also discuss how my proposal relates to other recent proposals, what results it (...) delivers for puzzles like the Sleeping Beauty problem, and whether there are diachronic constraints on rational belief at all. (shrink)
Possible-worlds accounts of mental or linguistic content are often criticized for being too coarse-grained. To make room for more fine-grained distinctions among contents, several authors have recently proposed extending the space of possible worlds by "impossible worlds". We argue that this strategy comes with serious costs: we would effectively have to abandon most of the features that make the possible-worlds framework attractive. More generally, we argue that while there are intuitive and theoretical considerations against overly coarse-grained notions of content, the (...) same kinds of considerations also prohibit an overly fine-grained individuation of content. An adequate notion of content, it seems, should have intermediate granularity. However, it is hard to construe a notion of content that meets these demands. Any notion of content, we suggest, must be either implausibly coarse-grained or implausibly fine-grained (or both). (shrink)
When an agent undergoes fission, how should the beliefs of the fission results relate to the pre-fission beliefs? This question is important for the Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics, but it is of independent philosophical interest. Among other things, fission scenarios demonstrate that ‘self-locating’ information can affect the probability of uncentred propositions even if an agent has no essentially self-locating uncertainty. I present a general update rule for centred beliefs that gives sensible verdicts in cases of fission, without relying on (...) controversial metaphysical or linguistic assumptions. The rule is supported by the same considerations that support standard conditioning in the traditional framework of uncentred propositions. 1 The Problem2 Conditioning and Self-location3 Shifted Conditioning4 Transition Probabilities5 Ockhamism6 Diachronic Rationality7 Consequences and Conclusions. (shrink)
Counterpart theory is often advertised by its track record at solving metaphysical puzzles. Here I focus on puzzles of occasional identity, wherein distinct individuals at one world or time appear to be identical at another world or time. To solve these puzzles, the usual interpretation rules of counterpart theory must be extended beyond the simple language of quantified modal logic. I present a more comprehensive semantics that allows talking about specific times and worlds, that takes into account the multiplicity and (...) sortal-dependence of counterpart relations, and that does not require names to denote actual or present individuals. In addition, the semantics I defend does not identify ordinary individuals with world-bound or time-bound stages and thereby avoids the most controversial aspect of counterpart theory. Humphrey’s counterpart at other worlds or times is none other than Humphrey himself. (shrink)
What are the objects of knowledge, belief, probability, apriority or analyticity? For at least some of these properties, it seems plausible that the objects are sentences, or sentence-like entities. However, results from mathematical logic indicate that sentential properties are subject to severe formal limitations. After surveying these results, I argue that they are more problematic than often assumed, that they can be avoided by taking the objects of the relevant property to be coarse-grained (“sets of worlds”) propositions, and that all (...) this has little to do with the choice between operators and predicates. (shrink)
It is widely held that if an object a is identical (or non-identical) to an object b, then it is necessary that a is identical (non-identical) to b. This view is supported an argument from Leibniz's Law and a popular conception of de re modality. On the other hand, there are good reasons to allow for contingent identity. Various alternative accounts of de re modality have been developed to achieve this kind of generality, and to explain what is wrong with (...) the argument from Leibniz's Law. (shrink)
I argue that none of the usual interpretations of probability provide an adequate interpretation of probabilistic theories in science. Assuming that the aim of such theories is to capture noisy relationships in the world, I suggest that we do not have to give them classical truth-conditional content at all: their probabilities can remain uninterpreted. Indirectly, this account turns out to explain what is right about the frequency interpretation, the best-systems interpretation, and the epistemic interpretation.
Two epistemic norms form the core of classical Bayesianism. The first, probabilism, is synchronic; it says that rational degrees of belief conform to the probability calculus. The second, conditionalization, is diachronic; it specifies how rational degrees of belief change as new evidence arrives. In the simplest case, where the new evidence is captured by a single proposition E that is learned with certainty, conditionalization says that the new credence Crt+1 in any proposition A should equal the previous credence Crt conditional (...) on E. (shrink)
This paper starts out from the idea that semantics is a “special science” whose aim, like that of chemistry or ecology, is to identify systematic, high-level patterns in a fundamentally physical world. I defend an approach to this task on which sentences are associated with with sets of possible worlds (of some kind). These sets of worlds, however, are not postulated for the compositional treatment of intensional contexts; they are not meant to capture what is intuitively asserted or communicated by (...) an utterance; nor are they supposed to shed light on the cognitive processes that underlie out linguistic competence. Instead, their job description is to capture certain regularities in the interactions between subjects using the relevant language. I also raise some questions about how the relevant worlds might be construed. (shrink)
There seem to be two ways of supposing a proposition: supposing “indicatively” that Shakespeare didn’t write Hamlet, it is likely that someone else did; supposing “subjunctively” that Shakespeare hadn’t written Hamlet, it is likely that nobody would have written the play. Let P be the probability of B on the subjunctive supposition that A. Is P equal to the probability of the corresponding counterfactual, A □→B? I review recent triviality arguments against this hypothesis and argue that they do not succeed. (...) On the other hand, I argue that even if we can equate P with P, we still need an account of how subjunctive conditional probabilities are related to unconditional probabilities. The triviality arguments reveal that the connection is not as straightforward as one might have hoped. (shrink)
The puzzle of the absentminded driver combines an unstable decision problem with a version of the Sleeping Beauty problem. Its analysis depends on the choice between “halfing” and “thirding” as well as that between “evidential” and “causal” decision theory. I show that all four combinations lead to interestingly different solutions, and draw some general lessons about the formulation of causal decision theory, the interpretation of mixed strategies and the connection between rational credence and objective chance.
Hofmeister's reply to schwarz's paper: kant's refutation of charitable lies (ethics, Oct. 1970) attacks an imaginary disjunction of two true duties. Hofmeister's maxim 'consciousness' blots out three principal relations in truthfulness. His claim 'falsifications of facts are not immoral in themselves' vitiates all rights based on contract. Schwarz's 'overlooking' of the thematic distinction is refuted by textual evidence. Kant's alleged reversal of his stand draws on a spurious historical source.