Sunday, September 09, 2007

Not all intuitions are created equal or ""What is the thesis of this paper?"

Fortwith, an abstract from the "Experimental Epistemology Laboratory" at Indiana.

A growing body of empirical literature challenges philosophers’ reliance on intuitions as evidence based on the fact that intuitions vary according to factors such as cultural and educational background, and socio-economic status. Our research extends this challenge, investigating Lehrer’s appeal to the Truetemp Case as evidence against reliabilism. We found that intuitions in response to this case vary according to whether, and what, other thought experiments are considered first. Our results show that: 1) willingness to attribute knowledge in the Truetemp Case increases after being presented with a clear case of non-knowledge, and 2) willingness to attribute knowledge in the Truetemp Case decreases after being presented with a clear case of knowledge. We contend that this instability undermines the supposed evidential status of these intuitions. After considering several objections and replies, we conclude that our results strengthen the empirical case against intuitions, such that philosophers who deal in intuitions can no longer rest comfortably in their armchairs. (LINK)

Hmmm, did they say "clear cases". As in cases where even the subjects' intuitions are clear. Mmmhmmm.

I'll take non-sequiturs for $700 Alex:
"Some intuitions vary, thus intuitions aren't good evidence."

And as usual my enemy's enemy is *not* my friend because I do think that empirical research into the solidity of intuitions is a good idea (though I suppose an ideal agent could know a priori that this was an unclear intuition, the rest of us aren't so lucky).

In particular, I'd love to have some empirical research aimed at the "intuitions" typically claimed to be associated with the famed Bank Case and other cases pragmatic encroachers use to sully our pure epistemology. 0:-I

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Six Theses about Language and Philosophy

                The format is a little goofy, because I pasted it from an email. I've changed nothing from the email text which means it was written on the fly, but reading over it I think I endorse it in essentials (as clarified in such a manner as to be clearly true of course). :-)~

              1. There is a fact of the matter
                as to the “rules” governing the application of terms. This is “logical”
                fact. It uses the same basic ramseyfication maneuver Lewis and other Humeans
                use for natural laws.

              2. Based on this fact I make an
                inference to the best explanation, that the generally consistent pattern is
                not the result of chance, but language users (not necessarily) conscious grasp
                of those “rules” not unlike a realist about laws.

              3. That people break from the
                pattern when they are asked to think about the rules I take to be evidence
                that they are not good at consciously representing those rules. Since the
                rules are simply generalizations over instances—pretty much exactly like a
                humean supervenience view of natural laws—to diverge from them *just is*
                to mistake what it was that was guiding them.

              4. What is guiding them, in my
                view, is the possession of concepts that words express. It is not the case
                that we can consciously think well about concepts we possess. We acquire the
                concepts by linguistic socialization. We are taught how to use words by our
                community. We are almost never told rules of application. We are just
                observers of applications, initially paradigm instances and then later fringe

              5. Since language skill is a
                kind of know-how, there is no expectation of ability to articulate the rules.
                This is a general feature of know-how. I couldn’t begin to tell you how I
                throw a Frisbee so damn well. In fact, when I try to pay attention to what it
                is the ability vanishes. Every time I formulate a theory about the rules of
                Frisbee throwing and test them I find I’ve failed. I’m not much more sanguine
                about terms (for non-scientists). There are of course exceptions, I’m an
                expert bike rider and though much of it is ineffable, some things I think I’ve
                figured out and have justified beliefs about what the rules are.

              6. I think ordinary language
                terms are often ultimately incoherent. I think this is the lesson of many
                logical, semantic, and metaphysical paradoxes. I think this is not surprising
                because of how I think language is acquired, by application to paradigm
                instances and then further and further extensions therefrom. As a result, my
                philosophical methodology is closest to Carnap’s “explication.” See Maher’s
                “Defense of Explication” and his lecture notes on line for a good defense of

              Tuesday, August 28, 2007

              Back-to-school Post! Knowledge and Evidence

              Set aside, for now, E = K. Focus on E → K.

              I’m fond of saying that we don’t need to know p in order for p to be in our evidence.

              However, consider this argument which I’ve adapted from Williamson (he uses it for a related but different argument, an argument of the form p is evidence for h only if p entails ~h).

              [Set aside, for now, my assertion that you know you’ve lost the lottery when you have the true belief that you have based on the odds.]

              So for some suitably large n, you’ve observed (on video, all the draws have already occurred, including the last draw) n balls taken out of a bag and all have been red.

              From this you reason that the n+1 ball which was drawn was red.

              Surely that the n + 1 ball was red is not part of your evidence.

              Yet it may be as probable as you please.

              Now bring back in E = K.

              That entails that you don’t know that the n + 1 ball was red.

              This contradicts my assertion that we do know the results of good, solid inductions.

              Suppose I’m right.

              Then either E = K is false or that the n + 1 ball was red is part of my evidence after all.

              I think I can make plausible the latter claim. Here’s a try.

              You ask me if Earl’s going to be at the party. I think he’s more likely to be there if Rich is going to be there, and I’m pretty sure Rich is going to be there, so I answer that I think Earl will probably be there.

              I’ve clearly conditioned on the proposition that Rich is going to be there even though I don’t know he is, it’s only quite probable for me.

              I think this *establishes* that it’s OK to use the unknown as evidence.

              I think the reason we are less likely to say this in the case of the case of enumerative induction is that the mathematical framework invokes a way of thinking which makes us want to “wait and see.”

              After all, that next draw is coming up, why not just wait and see? We are hesitant to use something as evidence if we think it’s status might change soon or if it’s status can be fixed quite easily.

              This is a very natural and rational way to *use* evidence, but it shouldn’t affect our *analysis* of evidence.

              So if I’ve succeeded thus far, either we do *know* that the next draw was red (assuming it was) and furthermore we know that we’ve lost the lottery (assuming we have) or E = K is false.

              Either way, Williamson is mad and I’m happy. :-)~

              Friday, August 03, 2007

              SCP at the ACPA: Virtue and Value

              John Greco (now at SLU don't forget) is currently putting together a session for the Society of Christian Philosophers at the American Catholic Philosophical Association meeting. Jason Baehr will give a paper on open mindedness as an intellectual virtue and Stephen Grimm will give a paper on epistemic value. Daniel Breyer (Forham) will comment on Jason's paper and I'll be commenting on Stephen's paper.

              Call for Papers

              Friday, April 06, 2007

              Goodness and Existence

              So, I was trying to think of a way to show that the following claim is true.

              (*) Necessarily, if something, x, is maximally good, then x exists necessarily.

              Here's one (not unproblematic) way that I was considering.

              First, consider the property of being morally good. That, I take it, is a better making property. That is, something that is morally good is better than something that is not morally good. And, something that is morally good to degree, n, is better than something that is morally good to degree n-1. So, the best thing (the thing that satisfies the antecedent of (*)(if there is such)) will be maximally morally good. That is, it will be good to degree, n, where there is no degree of goodness, m, which is such that m>n.

              Say that something is durably morally good if and only if it is morally good to some degree, n, and, at the nearest possible worlds, it is morally good to at least degree n.

              Durable moral goodness comes in degrees as well. My moral goodness might, for instance, be more durable than yours. This would be so if the space of possible worlds free of a world, w, such that my goodness is diminished at it is larger than the space of worlds free of a world, w', such that your goodness is diminished at it.

              So, suppose that possible worlds are ordered in possibility space by a similarity relation. The closer a world, w, is to a world, w', the more similar w is to w'. Consider a series of concentric circles centered on the actual world in possibility space. If there is some world, w, such that your degree of goodness in w is less than your degree of goodness in the actual world, and the circular region of possibility space with the smallest diameter in which w is located has a smaller diameter than the circular region of possibility space in which a world where my degree of goodness is less than it is in the actual world can be found, then I am more durably morally good than you.

              Say that something is maximally durably morally good (MDMG) if and only if it is durably morally good to degree, n, and there is no degree of durable moral goodness, m, such that m>n.

              So, here's a quick argument for the claim that maximal goodness entails necessary existence.

              1. Necessarily, if something, x, is maximally good, then x is MDMG.
              2. Necessarily, if something, x, is MDMG, then x exists necessarily.
              3. So, necessarily, if something, x, is maximally good, then x exists necessarily.

              Why think one is true?
              Here's an argument for one.

              1'. Suppose, for reductio, that at some world, w, something, x, is maximally good at w, and not MDMG at w.
              2'. If x is not MDMG at w, then x would be better by being more durably good.
              3'. If x would be better by being more durably good, then x is not maximally good at w.
              4'. So, for all worlds, w, it is not the case that something, x, is both maximally good at w and not MDMG at w.

              Why think two is true?
              Here's an argument for two.

              1''. Suppose, for reductio, that at some world, w, something, x, exists contingently and is MDMG.
              2''. If x exists contingently, then there is some world, w', such that x does not exist in w'.
              3''. If there is some world, w', such that x does not exist in w', then x is less good in w' than x is in w.
              4''. If x is less good in w' than x is in w, then x is not MDMG in w.
              5''. So, for all worlds, w, it is not the case that something, x, exists contingently and is MDMG in w.

              So, initially I thought this argument is good. I think it's probably not now.
              What do you guys think?

              Friday, March 30, 2007

              Preach it Brother Kaplan!

              A be-EU-tiful quote from Mark Kaplan's 1985 piece "It's not what you know that counts". Sadly, with two "revise and resubmits" two MS reviews, comps, and my writing seminar (and squeezing in last-minute skiing (how can you resist skiing in shorts and a T-shirt?)) I can't post much more than this, though I'd be happy to defend it.

              "Since we are saddled with a psychology that (rightly) does not admit special states of knowing that are, from the agent's point of view, discernibly different from states of justified belief, a contemporary call to attend to what you know-as opposed to what you merely believe with justification-would simply be confused. Given our conception of knowledge, all we can do by way of seeking knowledge is seek justified belief and hope that this justified belief will satisfy whatever other conditions a justified belief must satisfy in order to qualify as knowledge. This being so, it is not hard to see why the enterprise of specifying what those conditions are looks so purposeless. For if all we can do by way of seeking knowledge is seek justified belief, then, to secure agreement on how rational inquiry is to be conducted, we need only secure agreement on the canons of justification- it does not matter whether we agree or not on what knowledge is. It is thus a feature peculiar to our conception of knowledge that knowledge is indistinguishable from the agent's point of view from merely justified belief-which dooms the analysis of knowledge to irrevelance in helping us to understand and advance the proper conduct of inquiry" (361).

              Sunday, March 04, 2007

              Necessitarian Gambit

              (*) If epistemic principle P is justified for S (by necessary rule of inference I and S’s experiences E) then any proposition which P states is rational based on S’s experience is justified for S.

              The idea is that Chisholm’s EP’s actually only state contingent connections, but the rationally-supports relation should be necessary. I’m just going to assume these two things. In that case what I’m trying to do is to argue that direct acquaintance (some kind of awareness between e-type and n-type, thus a similar goal as your work) with facts which are such that a necessary rules of inference—whether inductive or deductive—yield that a propositional is rational for one.

              Here’s an example of the kind of think I have in mind.

              I’ve seen lots of people get koplik spots and later get measles. I’ve never consciously put 2 and 2 together but the next time I see someone get koplik spots I form the belief that they are coming down with measles. The explanation of why I form this belief is that I’ve seen the correlation a bunch of times (though, like I said, I’ve never gone through the inference consciously) and my acquaintance with the correlation is causing me to form the belief about measles on the (causal but not doxastic) basis of the spots.

              I’m inclined at this point to see this as a justified belief. I want to explain its justification by reference to (*).

              Depending on how chicken sexing works, this would make some chicken sexing beliefs justified. I’m OK with that as long as there is the relevant kind of awareness or acquaintance.

              Waddaya think?