Truth is the aim of inquiry. Nevertheless, some falsehoods seem to realize this aim better than others. Some truths better realize the aim than other truths. And perhaps even some falsehoods realize the aim better than some truths do. The dichotomy of the class of propositions into truths and falsehoods should thus be supplemented with a more fine-grained ordering — one which classifies propositions according to their closeness to the truth, their degree of truthlikeness or verisimilitude. The logical problem of (...) truthlikeness is to give an adequate account of the concept and to explore its logical properties. Of course, the logical problem intersects with problems in both epistemology and value theory. (shrink)
Value, Reality, and Desire is an extended argument for a robust realism about value. The robust realist affirms the following distinctive theses. There are genuine claims about value which are true or false--there are facts about value. These value-facts are mind-independent - they are not reducible to desires or other mental states, or indeed to any non-mental facts of a non-evaluative kind. And these genuine, mind-independent, irreducible value-facts are causally efficacious. Values, quite literally, affect us. These are not particularly fashionable (...) theses, and taken as a whole they go somewhat against the grain of quite a lot of recent work in the metaphysics of value. Further, against the received view, Oddie argues that we can have knowledge of values by experiential acquaintance, that there are experiences of value which can be both veridical and appropriately responsive to the values themselves. Finally, these value-experiences are not the products of some exotic and implausible faculty of "intuition." Rather, they are perfectly mundane and familiar mental states - namely, desires. This view explains how values can be "intrinsically motivating," without falling foul of the widely accepted "queerness" objection. There are, of course, other objections to each of the realist's claims. In showing how and why these objections fail, Oddie introduces a wealth of interesting and original insights about issues of wider interest--including the nature of properties, reduction, supervenience, and causation. The result is a novel and interesting account which illuminates what would otherwise be deeply puzzling features of value and desire and the connections between them. (shrink)
Two different programs are in the business of explicating accuracy—the truthlikeness program and the epistemic utility program. Both assume that truth is the goal of inquiry, and that among inquiries that fall short of realizing the goal some get closer to it than others. TL theorists have been searching for an account of the accuracy of propositions. EU theorists have been searching for an account of the accuracy of credal states. Both assume we can make cognitive progress in an inquiry (...) even while falling short of the target. I show that the prospects for combining these two programs are bleak. A core accuracy principle, universally embraced within the TL program, (Proximity) is incompatible with core principles of the EU program, including, notably, the principle of Propriety. (shrink)
What does it take for one proposition to be closer to the truth than another. In this, the first published monograph on the topic, Oddie develops a comprehensive theory that takes the likeness in truthlikeness seriously.
Theories of verisimilitude have routinely been classified into two rival camps—the content approach and the likeness approach—and these appear to be motivated by very different sets of data and principles. The question thus naturally arises as to whether these approaches can be fruitfully combined. Recently Zwart and Franssen (Synthese 158(1):75–92, 2007) have offered precise analyses of the content and likeness approaches, and shown that given these analyses any attempt to meld content and likeness orderings violates some basic desiderata. Unfortunately their (...) characterizations of the approaches do not embrace the paradigm examples of those approaches. I offer somewhat different characterizations of these two approaches, as well as of the consequence approach (Schurz and Weingartner (Synthese 172(3):415–436, 2010) which happily embrace their respective paradigms. Finally I prove that the three approaches are indeed compatible, but only just, and that the cost of combining them is too high. Any account which combines the strictures of what I call the strong likeness approach with the demands of either the content or the consequence approach suffers from precisely the same defect as Popper’s—namely, it entails the trivialization of truthlikeness. The downside of eschewing the strong likeness constraints and embracing the content constraints alone is the underdetermination of the concept of truthlikeness. (shrink)
According to John Mackie, moral talk is representational but its metaphysical presuppositions are wildly implausible. This is the basis of Mackie's now famous error theory: that moral judgments are cognitively meaningful but systematically false. Of course, Mackie went on to recommend various substantive moral judgments, and, in the light of his error theory, that has seemed odd to a lot of folk. Richard Joyce has argued that Mackie's approach can be vindicated by a fictionalist account of moral discourse. And Mark (...) Kalderon has argued that moral fictionalism is attractive quite independently of Mackie's error-theory. Kalderon argues that the Frege-Geach problem shows that we need moral propositions, but that a fictionalist can and should embrace propositional content together with a non-cognitivist account of acceptance of a moral proposition. Indeed, it is clear that any fictionalist is going to have to postulate more than one kind of acceptance attitude. We argue that this doubleapproach to acceptance generates a new problem -a descendent of Frege-Geach -which we call the acceptance-transfer problem. Although we develop the problem in the context of Kalderon's version of non-cognitivist fictionalism, we show that it is not the noncognitivist aspect of Kalderon's account that generates the problem. A closely related problem surfaces for the more typical variants of fictionalism according to which accepting a moral proposition is believing some closely related non-moral proposition. Fictionalists of both stripes thus have an attitude problem. (shrink)
According to the axiologist the value concepts are basic and the deontic concepts are derivative. This paper addresses two fundamental problems that arise for the axiologist. Firstly, what ought the axiologist o understand by the value of an act? Second, what are the prospects in principle for an axiological representation of moral theories. Can the deontic concepts of any coherent moral theory be represented by an agent-netural axiology: (1) whatever structure those concepts have and (2) whatever the causal structure of (...) the world happens to be. We show that the answer is "almost always". The only substantive constraint is that autonomous moral agents cannot have the power to simultaneously block the options open to other autonomous moral agents. But this seems to be part and parcel of the notion of an autonomous moral agent. (shrink)
Value is either additive or else it is subject to organic unity. In general we have organic unity where a complex whole is not simply the sum of its parts. Value exhibits organic unity if the value of a complex, whether a complex state or complex quality, is greater or less than the sum of the values of its components or parts. Whether or not value is additive might be thought to be of purely metaphysical interest, but it is also (...) connected with important aspects of evaluative reasoning. Additivity is closely connected with principles of bare difference and separability which are often tacitly assumed in value theory. The author spells out these principles and trace their connections with additivity and organic unity. The author then develops an unpleasant paradox of additivity. Additivity apparently entails nihilism: that nothing is more valuable than anything else. Additivity involves a kind of axiological atomism -- that complexes decompose into components or factors; that these factors possess value independently of their role in valuable complexes; and that the factors do not interact in their production of overall value. In order to avoid the paradox it seems as though the factors have to be akin to the metaphysically privileged states of logical atomism -- a doctrine that does not enjoy widespread support. The paradox poses a problem not only for the notions of organic unity and additivity, but also for the closely related bare-difference principles which lie at the heart of value theory and of its application. The author proposes a way of eliminating the paradox, and thereby saving additivity and separability, without presupposing an unpalatable variant of logical atomism. The author closes with the proposal to treat principles of additivity as regulative ideals in our search for intrinsic values. (shrink)
According to Fitting Attitude theorists, for something to possess a certain value it is necessary and sufficient that it be fitting (appropriate, or good, or obligatory, or something) to take a certain attitude to the bearer of that value. The idea seems obvious for thick evaluative attributes, but less obvious for the thin evaluative attributes—like goodness, betterness, and degrees of value. This paper is an extended argument for the thesis that the fitting response to the thin evaluative attributes of states (...) is desire, broadly construed. The good is what it is fitting to desire, the bad what it is fitting to be averse to, and the better what it is fitting to prefer. I start with two prominent challenges to the FA schema (Wrong Kinds of Reasons and Solitary Goods). For the FA schema to survive these challenges—along with some developments of them—the fitting response to the goodness of a state has to be a non-factive, non-doxastic representation of the state as good—in other words, an appearance of the goodness that state. That desires and preferences are non-doxastic value appearances is independently attractive, and I argue that this is in fact the simplest hypothesis compatible with the Fitting Attitude approach.Fitting Attitudes. (shrink)
A rather promising value theory for environmental philosophers combines the well-known fitting attitude (FA) account of value with the rather less well-known account of value as richness. If the value of an entity is proportional to its degree of richness (which has been cashed out in terms of unified complexity and organic unity), then since natural entities, such as species or ecosystems, exhibit varying degrees of richness quite independently of what we happen to feel about them, they also possess differing (...) degrees of mind-independent and subject-independent value. In particular, their value is not dependent on the desires or preferences of humans. The fitting attitudes account of value, at least as it is standardly developed, demands isomorphic evaluative responses on the part of all valuers. In particular, it entails that all valuers should have isomorphic preferences. But this seems absurd. I consider three different strategies with which the fitting attitude theorist can deflect this challenge. The first makes use of an account of non-standard value relations in terms of permissible preference orderings. The second appeals to value appearances and the associated notions of value distance and value perspective. The third involves an account of the ultimate bearers of value as properties, rather than as propositions or states of affairs. These strategies are not all mutually incompatible. While it isn’t possible to combine the first and second strategies, it is possible to combine the first and third strategies, and also to combine the second and the third. (shrink)
The importance for realism of the concept of truthlikeness was first stressed by Popper. Popper himself not only mapped out a program for defining truthlikeness (in terms of falsity content and truth content) but produced the first definitions within this program. These were shown to be inadequate. But the program lingered on, and the most recent attempt to revive it is that of Newton-Smith. His attempt is a failure, not because of some minor defect or technical flaw in his particular (...) account but rather because the program incorporates a fundamental flaw. However, realists need not despair. There already exists an entirely different program not subject to these criticisms. (shrink)
David Lewis has argued against the thesis he calls "Desire as Belief", claiming it is incompatible with the fundamentals of evidential decision theory. I show that the argument is unsound, and demonstrate that a version of desire as belief is compatible with a version of causal decision theory.
I address two related questions. First: what value is there in visiting a museum and becoming acquainted with the objects on display? For art museums the answer seem obvious: we go to experience valuable works of art, and experiencing valuable works of art is itself valuable. In this paper I focus on non-art museums, and while these may house aesthetically valuable objects, that is not their primary purpose, and at least some of the objects they house might not be particularly (...) aesthetically valuable at all. Second: to what ontological type or category do museum objects belong? What type of item that should be featured on an inventory of a museum collection? I distinguish between typical objects and special objects. While these are different types of object, both, I argue, are abstracta, not concreta. The answer to the second question, concerning the ontological category of special objects, throws new light on various philosophical questions about museums and their collections, including the question about the value of museum experiences. But it also throws light on important questions concerning the preservation and restoration of museum objects. (shrink)
Moral dilemmas can arise from uncertainty, including uncertainty of the real values involved. One interesting example of this is that of experimentation on human embryos and foetuses, If these have a moral stauts similar to that of human persons then there will be server constraitns on what may be done to them. If embryous have a moral status similar to that of other small clusters of cells, then constraints will be motivated largely by consideration for the persons into whom the (...) embryos may develop. If the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes, the embryo having neither the full moral weight of persons, nor a completely negligible moral weight, then different kinds of constraints will be appropriate. On the face of it, in order to know what kinds of experiements, if any, we are morally justified in performing on embryos we have to know what the moral weight of the embryo is. But then an impasse threatens, for it seems implausible that we can settle with certainty the exact moral status of the human embryo. It is the purpose of this paper to show that moral uncertainty need not make rational moral justification impossible. I develop a framework which distinguishes between what is morally right/wrong, and what is morally justified/unjustified, and applies standard decision theoretic tools to the case of moral uncertainties. (This was the first published account of what has subsequently become known as Expected Moral Value Theory. An earlier version of the paper, "A decision theoretic argument against human embryo experimentation", was published in M. Fricke (ed.), Essays in honor of Bob Durrant. (University of Otago Press, 1986) 111-27.). (shrink)
I argue for an evaluative theory of desire—specifically, that to desire something is for it to appear, in some way or other, good. If a desire is a non-doxastic appearance of value then it is no mystery how it can rationalize as well as cause action. The theory is metaphysically neutral—it is compatible with value idealism (that value reduces to desire), with value realism (that it is not so reducible), and with value nihilism (all appearances of value are illusory). Despite (...) this metaphysical neutrality the thesis opens up an epistemological gold mine. Non-doxastic value appearances can provide defeasible reasons for value judgements, in roughly the same way that perceptual appearances provide defeasible reasons for perceptual judgements. The paper presents a new line of argument for the evaluative theory—drawing on recent work on fitting attitudes—and rebuts some of the most pressing criticisms. (shrink)
Supervenience theses promise ontological economy without reducibility. The problem is that they face a dilemma: either the relation of supervenience entails reducibility or it is mysterious. Recently higher-order universals have been invoked to avoid the dilemma. This article develops a higher-order framework in which this claim can be assessed. It is shown that reducibility can be avoided, but only at the cost of a rather radical metaphysical proposal.
A recent slew of arguments, if sound, would demonstrate that realism about value involves a kind of paradox-I call it the BAD paradox.More precisely, they show that if there are genuine propositions about the good, then one could maintain harmony between one’s desires and one’s beliefs about the good only on pain of violating fundamental principles of decision theory. I show. however, the BAD paradox turns out to be a version of Newcomb’s problem, and that the cognitivist about value can (...) avoid the paradox by embracing casual decision theory. (shrink)
It was something of a dogma for much of the twentieth century that one cannot validly derive an ought from an is. More generally, it was held that non-normative propositions do not entail normative propositions. Call this thesis about the relation between the natural and the normative Natural-Normative Autonomy. The denial of Autonomy involves the entanglement of the natural with the normative. Naturalism entails entanglement—in fact it entails the most extreme form of entanglement—but entanglement does not entail naturalism. In a (...) ground-breaking paper “The autonomy of ethics” Arthur Prior constructed some intriguing counterexamples to Autonomy. While his counterexamples have convinced few, there is little agreement on what is wrong with them. I present a new analysis of Autonomy, one which is grounded in a general and independently plausible account of subject matters. While Prior’s arguments do establish shallow natural-normative entanglement, this is a consequence of simple logical relationships that hold between just about any two subject matters. It has nothing special to do with the logical structure of normativity or its relation to the natural. Prior’s arguments leave the fundamental idea behind natural-normative Autonomy intact. I offer a new argument for deep entanglement. I show that in any framework adequate for dealing with the natural and the normative spheres, a purely natural proposition entails a purely normative proposition, and vice-versa. But this is no threat to non-naturalist moral realism. In fact it helps ameliorate the excesses of an extreme non-naturalism, delivering a more palatable and plausible position. (shrink)
A number of different theories of truthlikeness have been proposed, but most can be classified into one of two different main programmes: the probability-content programme and the likeness programme.1 In Brink and Heidema  we are offered a further proposal, with the attraction of some novelty. I argue that while the heuristic path taken by the authors is rather remote from what they call ‘the well-worn paths’,2 in fact their point of arrival is rather closer to existing proposals within the (...) likeness approach than might at first appear. It is the purpose of this note to outline the logical connections and to assess the reasons which have been offered in favour of the new proposal. (shrink)
What is sovereignty? Was it ceded to the Crown in the Treaty of Waitangi? If land was unjustly confiscated over a century ago, should it be returned? Is an ecosystem valuable in itself, or only because of its value to people? Does a property right entail a right to destroy? Can collectives (such as tribes) bear moral responsibility? Do they have moral rights? If so, what are the implications for the justice system? These questions are essentially philosophical, yet all thoughtful (...) New Zealanders will be keen to see them discussed clearly, rigorously, and dispassionately. This book gathers together essays by eminent philosophers on some of these problems. All of them are New Zealanders or have connections with this region. The problems which this book addresses on aspects of justice and ethics are of concern to all New Zealanders. Students of law, Maori studies, philosophy, politics, and history will find it particularly helpful. (shrink)
Can a present or future event bring about a past event? An answer to this question is demanded by many other interesting questions. Can anybody, even a god, do anything about what has already occurred? Should we plan for the past, as well as for the future? Can anybody precognise the future in a way quite different from normal prediction? Do the causal laws and the past jointly preclude free action? Does current physical theory entail a consistent version of backwards (...) causation? Recent articles on the problem of backwards causation have drawn attention to the importance of the principle of the fixity of the past: that the past is now fixed. It can be shown that the standard argument against backwards causation (the bilking experiment) simply builds in the assumption of past fixity. A fixed past deprives future events of past efficacy. This has naturally led to the speculation that by abandoning past fixity real power over the past may be possible.In this paper I show that in order to have an interesting thesis of backwards causation it is not enough simply to drop past fixity. More must go. In particular, to ensure what could be called future-to-past efficacy we must abandon two entrenched principles of permanence: the principle of permanent fixity, and the principle of permanent truth. The only alternative for backwards causal theorists is to embrace real contradictions in nature. (shrink)
The core of the truthmaker research program is that true propositions are made true by appropriate parts of the actual world. This idea seems to give realists their best shot at capturing a robust account of the dependence of truth on the world. For a part of the world to be a truthmaker for a particular it must suffice for, or necessitate, the truth of the proposition. There are two extreme and unsatisfactory truthmaker theories. At one extreme any part of (...) the world (up to and including the whole world) that suffices for a proposition is deemed to be a truthmaker for that proposition. At the other extreme there is only one truthmaker that can do the job, and that is the entire world, the whole show. Another possibility suggests itself, that a truthmaker be any minimal sufficer for a proposition. A truthmaker is minimal if it suffices but no proper part of it suffices. A minimal sufficer would be both sufficient for the truth of the proposition and, in one sense, necessary for it as well. A minimal sufficers would be commensurate with the proposition it makes true. Unfortunately not all propositions have minimal sufficers. But it does not follow that not every proposition has a commensurate sufficer. The problem, then, is to specify a coherent notion of commensurateness on which every truth has a commensurate sufficer. I argue that this problem may not be soluble. (shrink)
Are things good because we desire them or do we desire them because they are good? Theories that countenance only desire-dependent values are idealist, those that countenance desire-independent values are realist. A value can be either subject-relative or subject-neutral. Subjectivism countenances only subject-relative and desire-dependent values. Subject-neutral idealism countenances at least some subject-neutral values. Realism repudiates the dependence of value on actual desires, but endorses an important relation between value and the fittingness of desires. Normative realism takes normative facts about (...) the fittingness of desires to ground the value facts, while axiological realism takes value facts to ground facts about fittingness. An important variant of axiological realism, namely representational realism, holds that desires are appearances of value, and that the fittingness of a desire is simply a matter of accurate representation. (shrink)