This paper makes the case that when wishfulthinking ill-founds belief, the belief depends on the desire in ways can be recapitulated at the level of perceptual experience. The relevant kinds of desires include motivations, hopes, preferences, and goals. I distinguish between two modes of dependence of belief on desire in wishfulthinking: selective or inquiry-related, and responsive or evidence-related. I offers a theory of basing on which beliefs are badly-based on desires, due to patterns of (...) dependence that can found in the relationship between experiences and desires as well. This conclusion brings us a large part of the way to the conclusion that like beliefs, experiences can be ill-founded by depending on a desire. (shrink)
It is argued that wishfulthinking is an informal logical fallacy and is distinguished from self-deception and delusion. Wishfulthinking is unique in that a human desire is the starting point, which remains unfulfilled because of insufficient or no evidence or ignorance, despite the agent’s beliefs. It contrasts with self-deception, a more serious mental state in which the agent hides or denies the truth from himself, regardless of whether it is desired. Wishfulthinking is (...) a logical fallacy, depending on the agent’s genuine beliefs as an epistemic dilemma or merely a harmless fantasy. pp. 30–42. (shrink)
Some contemporary philosophers have argued that expressivism or non-cognitivism, if suitably developed, can solve the well-known Frege–Geach problem. Of course, whether this is true is a matter of debate. Recently, Cian Dorr has advanced an argument that, if successful, would show that this debate is unimportant. For, according to Dorr, a solution to the Frege–Geach problem will not save expressivism from a new and distinct problem, namely that an expressivist theory—even assuming a solution to the Frege–Geach problem—entails that intuitively rational (...) beliefs are in fact irrational. If Dorr is correct about this, then the new problem he raises would be as devastating as the old Frege–Geach problem is often thought to be. I will argue that Dorr is not correct. Rather than constituting a new and potent objection, the issue Dorr raises—at least absent further argument—does not pose a threat to any expressivist theory which is able to solve the Frege–Geach problem and is otherwise acceptable. (shrink)
In each of two experiments, college students were assigned to two ad hoc groups that competed in a dart-throwing contest. On each trial, one contestant from each team threw a single dart at a standard dart board, trying to come as close as possible to hitting the bull's-eye. Also on each trial, the other participants judged the likelihood that both the Team A contestant and the Team B contestant would come closer to hitting the bull's-eye. In both experiments, participants exhibited (...) a strong wishfulthinking effect. They judged the likelihood that their own team members would come closer to be greater than the likelihood that the opposing team members would come closer. Experiment 2 suggested that it was participants' desires, as opposed to some other variable associated with team membership, that influenced their predictions. Experiment 2 also showed that the size of the effect did not depend on whether participants believed that their predictions had been influenced by their team membership. These results help bridge the gap between previous experimental laboratory studies, which have produced inconsistent results, and correlational field studies of sports fans and voters, which have consistently produced large effects. (shrink)
Cian Dorr has argued that non-cognitivists must think of reasoning from moral premises to empirical conclusions as akin to wishfulthinking. Defenders of non-cognitivism have responded that an adequate solution to the Frege-Geach problem would explain relations of entailment and implication between moral and nonmoral claims and thereby also handle Dorr’s objection. This paper offers a new, more specific, interpretation of Dorr’s objection and one that makes it distinct from worries about Frege-Geach. The paper also explains why non-cognitivists (...) might still reasonably be optimistic that they can allay this version of the worry. Still, successfully undercutting the worry also undercuts one of the prime reasons offered on behalf of non-cognitivism—arguments based on the Humean Theory of Motivation purporting to show that moral judgments cannot be beliefs. (shrink)
This article examines the concept of wishfulthinking in philosophical literature on science and values. It suggests that this term tends to be used in an overly broad manner that fails to distinguish between separate types of bias, mechanisms that generate biases, and general theories that might explain those mechanisms. I explain how confirmation bias is distinct from wishfulthinking and why it is more useful for examining the relationship between cognitive bias and beliefs about the (...) existence of injustices. (shrink)
Expressivists famously have important and difficult problems with semantics and logic. Their difficulties providing an adequate account of the semantics of material conditionals involving moral terms, and explaining why they have the right semantic and logical properties – for example, why they validate modus ponens – have received a great deal of attention. Cian Dorr  points out that their problems do not stop here, but also extend to epistemology. The problem he poses for expressivists is the problem of (...) class='Hi'>wishfulthinking. David Enoch  has claimed that expressivists can avoid wishfulthinking, and offered a fairly detailed account of how. In this paper I explain the details of Enoch’s account, and why his reasoning fails in several different places. (shrink)
The ideal world semantics of standard deontic logic identifies our obligations with how we would act in an ideal world. However, to act as if one lived in an ideal world is bad moral advice, associated with wishfulthinking rather than well-considered moral deliberation. Ideal world semantics gives rise to implausible logical principles, and the metaphysical arguments that have been put forward in its favour turn out to be based on a too limited view of truth-functional representation. It (...) is argued that ideal world semantics should be given up in favour of other, more plausible uses of possible worlds for modelling normative subject-matter. (shrink)
While the science and values literature has seen recurrent concerns about wishfulthinking, there have been few efforts to characterize this phenomenon. Based on a review of varieties of wishfulthinking involved in climate skepticism, we argue that instances of wishfulthinking can be fruitfully characterized in terms of the mechanisms that generate them and the problems associated with them. We highlight the array of mechanisms associated with wishfulthinking, as well as (...) the fact that it can be evaluated both from epistemic and ethical perspectives. We argue that it is doubtful that a single unified definition of wishfulthinking can be developed. Moreover, the concept of wishfulthinking can problematically focus excessive attention on individual and epistemic problems in science, to the exclusion of social and ethical problems. (shrink)
On a traditional view of perceptual justification, perceptual experiences always provide prima facie justification for beliefs based on them. Against this view, Matthew McGrath and Susanna Siegel argue that if an experience is formed in an epistemically pernicious way then it is epistemically downgraded. They argue that "wishful seeing"—when a subject sees something because he wants to see it—is psychologically and normatively analogous to wishfulthinking. They conclude that perception can lose its traditional justificatory power, and that (...) our epistemic norms should govern how experiences are formed. To make this case, the downgrader must first isolate a feature of wishfulthinking that makes it epistemically defective, then show that this feature is present in wishful seeing. I present a dilemma for the downgrader. There are two features of wishfulthinking that could plausibly explain why it is irrational: the fact that a desire causes you to form a belief not supported by adequate evidence, or the mere influence that desire holds over belief formation. Each option presents formidable difficulties. Although the first “bad evidence” explanation, which McGrath employs, explains the irrationality of wishfulthinking, it does not transfer to wishful seeing, since experiences are not formed in response to evidence. The second “influence of desire” explanation, which Siegel employs, fails to isolate an epistemically defective feature of wishfulthinking, and also does not transfer to wishful seeing. I conclude that the downgrader’s argument from wishful seeing fails. (shrink)
This article is concerned with the concept of “informed consent” as applied both in biomedical research involving human subjects and in clinical medicine in general. The current crisis over the elaboration and interpretation of the concept will be examined, along with the broader question of whether “informed consent” is any longer meaningful or viable as a criterion for complex bioethical policy-making. Finally, I will attempt to sketch a prognosis for the concept in doctor-patient relations, even if it is only (...) class='Hi'>wishfulthinking. (shrink)
This paper analyzes individual probabilistic predictions of state outcomes in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Employing an original survey of more than 19,000 respondents, ours is the ﬁrst study of electoral forecasting to involve multiple subnational predictions and to incorporate the inﬂuence of respondents’ home states. We relate a range of demographic, political, and cognitive variables to individual accuracy and predictions, as well as to how accuracy improved over time. We ﬁnd strong support for wishfulthinking bias in (...) expectations, as Republicans gave higher probabilities to McCain victories and were worse at overall prediction. In addition, we ﬁnd that respondents living in states with higher vote shares for Obama performed better at prediction and displayed less wishfulthinking bias. We conclude by showing that suitable aggregations of our respondents’ predictions outperformed Intrade (a prediction market) and ﬁvethirtyeight.com (a poll-based forecast) at most points in time. (shrink)
This paper gives a sketch for a reconstruction of the Freudian unconscious, and an argument for its existence. The strategy followed attempts to side-step the extended debates about the validity of Freud's methods and conclusions, by basing itself on the desire/belief schema for understanding and explaining human behaviour – a schema neither folk psychology nor scientific psychology can do without. People are argued to have, as ideal types, two fundamental modes of fulfilling their desires: engaging with reality, and wishful (...)thinking. The first mode tries to acknowledge the constraints reality imposes on the satisfaction of desires, while the second mode tries to ignore, deny or disguise these constraints, inasmuch as they threaten to make such satisfaction impossible or unfeasible. Crucially, wishfulthinking can be used so as to ignore or deny any desire that is incompatible with other strong desires. Thus we end up unaware of the existence or nature of some of our desires, of the fact that they are in flu enc ing our thought and be hav iour, and of the process our own mind has used to thwart awareness of them. Once we acknowledge this possibility, we are already seriously entertaining the possibility of the Freudian unconscious, or something fairly close to it. The more aware the subject is that her wishfulthinking is just that, the less effective it becomes. Wishfulthinking thus requires an unconscious; it is inimical to a clear, complete and unambiguous acknowledgement of its own status. Next, various aspects of my account (and Freud's) that allow a conception of the unconscious in non-Cartesian terms are emphasised: the unconscious is largely constituted by semantic phenomena of a particular type: forms of representation which would conceal their meaning even if the full light of 'attention', Cartesian 'consciousness' or 'introspection' were cast upon them. If wishfulthinking is an integral part of mental life, philosophers and others wishing to “educate humanity” will have to proceed differently from what would have been appropriate had rational thought and action been the only available option for satisfying desires. Mankind cannot bear too much reality – T.S. Eliot S. Afr. J. Philos. Vol.22(4) 2003: 361-377. (shrink)
Wishfulthinking -- Agency and the future -- Mind matter partnership -- On morality and ethics -- Quasi-objects -- Legislated quantities -- Totalization and its problems -- Philosophical counterargumentation -- Oriental pluralism -- Analyticity reconsidered -- On issues of exponential growth.
This paper argues against the view that the Freudian unconscious can be understood as an extension of ordinary belief-desire psychology. The paper argues that Freud’s picture of the mind challenges the paradigm of folk psychology, as it is understood by much contemporary philosophy of psychology and cognitive science. The dynamic unconscious postulated by psychoanalysis operates according to rules and principles which are distinct in kind from those rules that organise rational and conscious thought. Psychoanalysis offers us a radical reconception of (...) our ordinary way of thinking about our own minds. (shrink)
Even if non-cognitivists about some subject-matter can meet Geach’s challenge to explain how there can be valid implications involving sentences which express non-cognitive attitudes, they face a further problem. I argue that a non-cognitivist cannot explain how, given a valid argument whose conclusion expresses a belief and at least one of whose premises expresses a non-cognitive attitude, it could be reasonable to infer the conclusion from the premises.
What is W. V. O. Quine’s relationship to classical pragmatism? Although he resists the comparison to William James in particular, commentators have seen an affinity between his “web of belief” model of theory confirmation and James’s claim that our beliefs form a “stock” that faces new experience as a corporate body. I argue that the similarity is only superficial. James thinks our web of beliefs should be responsive not just to perceptual but also to emotional experiences in some cases; Quine (...) denies this. I motivate James’s controversial view by appealing to an episode in the history of medicine when a researcher self-experimented by swallowing a vial of bacteria that at the time had not been studied in much detail. The researcher’s commitment to his own as-yet untested hypothesis was based in part on emotional considerations. Finally, I argue that Quine’s insistence that emotions can never be relevant to adjusting our web of belief reflects a tacit holdover of one of logical positivism’s crucially anti-pragmatist commitments—that philosophy of science should focus exclusively on the context of justification, not the context of discovery. James’s emphasis on discovery as a (perhaps the) crucial locus for epistemological inquiry is characteristic of pragmatism in general. Since Quinean epistemology is always an epistemology of justification, he is not happily viewed as a member of the pragmatist tradition. (shrink)
David Enoch recently defended the idea that there are valid inferences of the form ‘it would be good if p, therefore, p’. I argue that Enoch's proposal allows us to infer the absurd conclusion that ours is the best of all possible worlds.
"Does torture work?" is a factual rather than ethical or legal question. But legal and ethical discussions of torture should be informed by knowledge of the answer to the factual question of the reliability of torture as an interrogation technique. The question as to whether torture works should be asked before that of its legal admissibility—if it is not useful to interrogators, there is no point considering its legality in court.
SummaryHolm Tetens develops in his book „Gott denken. Ein Versuch über rationale Theologie“ theoretical and practical arguments against a naturalistic and in favour of a theistic understanding of reality. In my paper I focus on Teten’s claim that we are rationally justified to hope for the truth of classical theism. I distinguish between rationally justified and unjustified forms of hope and argue that we are rationally justified to hope for the redemption of reality as promised by classical theism. However, this (...) hope has a weaker basis of justification than Tetens seems to assume because serious objections to classical theism ought to be taken into consideration as well. (shrink)
Tamara Browne argues that many of the controversies that emerge in the process of revising DSMs could be solved by the creation of an Ethics Review Panel, similar to that of a research ethics committee. Members of such a panel would, in Browne's words, "help inform psychiatric classification". Browne's proposal is important on a number of levels, the most significant one being that it affirms the status of ethics as equal to that of science. An Ethics Review Panel would do (...) more than merely make the processes of scientific and ethical judgments parallel: if Browne's suggestions were followed, it would raise ethical considerations to that of second-order status to scientific judgments in the... (shrink)
It has recently been argued by Cian Dorr that if noncognitivism is true, inferences to factual conclusions from premises at least one of which is moral must be condemned as irrational. For, given a noncognitivist understanding of what it is to accept such premises, such reasoning would be wishfulthinking: irrationally revising our views about the world to make them cohere with our desires and feelings. This he takes to be a reductio of noncognitivism. I argue that no (...) compelling case to this effect has been made out. I show how, in many cases, non-cognitivists can make excellent sense of the rational legitimacy of such arguments. In cases where they plausibly cannot do so, moreover, this legitimacy is highly doubtful for independently plausible reasons and should be doubted even by cognitivists. (shrink)
The paper aims at characterising self-deceptive hope, a certain kind of ir-rational hoping. The focus is on ordinary, intentional hope exclusively, i. e. on acts of hoping with a definite object (in contrast to dispositional forms of hope such as hopefulness). If a person S hopes in this way that p, she desires that p, she has a belief about the probability of p, and she affec-tively evaluates this probability in one of two ways: We can distinguish between anxious and (...) confident hope. Both may involve self-deception. In self-deception, desire tampers with belief, such that S’s belief that q is based on reasons which in turn are based on a distorted perception or mis-interpretation of evidence available to S. Self-deceptive hopes, I argue, are based on self-deceptive probability beliefs. We are particularly prone to such hoping when we attach great importance to what we hope for but are confronted with evidence which would give us reason to think that our hope cannot be fulfilled. Although even under these conditions there is no necessary but only a contingent connection between self-deception and hope, it is a very natural one. (shrink)
There are at least three basic phenomena that philosophers traditionally classify as paradigm cases of irrationality. In the first two cases, wishfulthinking and self-deception, a person wants something to be true and therefore ignores certain relevant facts about the situation, making it appear to herself that it is, in fact, true. The third case, weakness of will, involves a person undertaking a certain action, despite taking herself to have an all-things-considered better reason not to do so. While (...) I think that Stephen Colbert's notion of "truthiness" might be able to fit the mold of each of these three kinds of irrationality, it applies most directly to cases of wishfulthinking and self-deception — and it’s these two types of irrationality that I discuss extensively in this paper. As we will see, there are some troubling philosophical problems that arise regarding phenomena like self-deception. But we can use the concept of truthiness to show how these “paradoxes of irrationality” may be resolved without denying the fundamental irrationality of truthiness itself. -/- An earlier version of this paper ("Truthiness, Self-Deception, and Intuitive Knowledge") appeared in "The Daily Show and Philosophy" (2007). (shrink)
Perceptual dogmatism holds that if it perceptually seems to S that P, then S thereby has prima facie perceptual justification for P. But suppose Wishful Willy's desire for gold cognitively penetrates his perceptual experience and makes it seem to him that the yellow object is a gold nugget. Intuitively, his desire-penetrated seeming can't provide him with prima facie justification for thinking that the object is gold. If this intuitive response is correct, dogmatists have a problem. But if dogmatists (...) have a problem, you do too (well, most of you anyway). Reliabilists have denounced dogmatism's cognitive penetration problems, but they have problems with cognitive penetration that are even worse. (shrink)
Since the 80s, educators have supported instruction in critical thinking as “an Educational Ideal.” This should not be a surprise given some of the more common conceptions, e.g., Ennis’s “reasonable reflective thinking on what to believe or do,” or Siegel’s “being appropriately moved by reasons,” as opposed to bias, emotion or wishfulthinking. Who would want a doctor, lawyer, or mechanic who could not skillfully evaluate arguments, causes, and cures? So, educators endorsed the dream that, through (...) proper CT instruction, students’ critical skills and “rational passions” could be greatly improved. In spite of the dream’s appeal, the reality is, after 30+ years, there is little reason to think the dream resembles reality. After describing what I take to be an adequate definition of CT, such a depressing conclusion will be supported by CT assessment scores from across academe, the continued widespread disagreement among experts in nearly all fields, including CT, and the abundant psychological research on rationality and decision making. And finally, while the ideal extols the value of objectivity, I shall argue that bias may be unavoidable because personal values play a vital role in the evaluation of many arguments. (shrink)
Self-deception poses tantalizing conceptual conundrums and provides fertile ground for empirical research. Recent interdisciplinary volumes on the topic feature essays by biologists, philosophers, psychiatrists, and psychologists (Lockard & Paulhus 1988, Martin 1985). Self-deception's location at the intersection of these disciplines is explained by its significance for questions of abiding interdisciplinary interest. To what extent is our mental life present--or even accessible--to consciousness? How rational are we? How is motivated irrationality to be explained? To what extent are our beliefs subject to (...) our control? What are the determinants of belief, and how does motivation bear upon belief? In what measure are widely shared psychological propensities products of evolution? (shrink)
Intuitively, affect plays an indispensable role in self-deception’s dynamic. Call this view “affectivism.” Investigating affectivism matters, as affectivists argue that this conception favours the non-intentionalist approach to self-deception and offers a unified account of straight and twisted self-deception. However, this line of argument has not been scrutinized in detail, and there are reasons to doubt it. Does affectivism fulfill its promises of non-intentionalism and unity? We argue that it does, as long as affect’s role in self-deception lies in affective filters—that (...) is, in evaluation of information in light of one’s concerns. We develop this conception by taking into consideration the underlying mechanisms governing self-deception, particularly the neurobiological mechanisms of somatic markers and dopamine regulation. Shifting the discussion to this level can fulfill the affectivist aspirations, as this approach clearly favours non-intentionalism and offers a unified account of self-deception. We support this claim by criticizing the main alternative affectivist account—namely, the views that self-deception functions to reduce anxiety or is motivated by anxiety. Describing self-deception’s dynamic does not require intention; affect is sufficient if we use the insights of neuroscience and the psychology of affective bias to examine this issue. In this way, affectivism can fulfill its promises. (shrink)
Pascalâs wager is expounded as a paradigm case of a practical,decision-theoretical argument for acting as if a proposition is true when wehave no theoretical reasons to accept or reject it (1.1.â1.2.). Thoughthe paradigm is fallacious in various respects there are valid and adequatearguments for acting as if certain propositions are true: that theoreticalentities exist, that there are material perceptual objects, that the worldis uniform across time (1.3). After this analysis of examples the authorâsgeneral approach for developing criteria for the validity (...) and adequacy oftypes of argument (2.1.) is applied: Having discussed some problems(2.2.â2.3.), a general epistemic principle for such âpascal argumentsâis developed, which characterizes their premisses and, if introduced as anadditional premiss, can make them deductively valid (2.4). (shrink)
What Chow calls NHSTP is an inconsistent hybrid of Fisherian and Neyman-Pearsonian ideas. In psychology it has been practiced like ritualistic handwashing and sustained by wishfulthinking about its utility. Chow argues that NHSTP is an important tool for ruling out chance as an explanation for data. I disagree. This ritual discourages theory development by providing researchers with no incentive to specify hypotheses.
One cannot prove the truth of theological statement, but perhaps one can justify believing them because of the good consequences of doing so. It is irrational to believe statements of which there are good reasons to think false, but those of which there is some, albeit inconclusive, evidence can be believed for pragmatic reasons. However, in the interest of simplicity, it must not be possible to achieve those good consequences without such faith. John Bishop and others have argued that one (...) need only assume theological statements to be true to enjoy the good consequences of a religious life, but in fact, faith is needed for most of these consequences to be achieved. (shrink)