Monday, November 24, 2008

It's vast

I've received a proper citation from D&CPF. I've also received a copy of the paper from Alex and MC Naturalist. Thanks to the three of you for your help, it's sort of unbelievable. Now, I'll get to making proper work of the Feldman piece.]

Of course, I'm speaking of the conspiracy that's plotting against me. I know, you think there's no such conspiracy (unless you're part of it). But, I came to campus to take a look up an article in The Monist to find that the Fondren Library (which I'm now sitting in) only carries that journal through 1970 and that the remaining volumes are housed in the Bridwell Library. The only rational explanation for splitting journals up and speading them across the campus is a vast conspiracy. Of course, the Bridwell Library is closed on Sunday. Saturday and Sunday are my writing days. The conspiracy just keeps getting vaster.

If anyone can think of another article in which someone defends the view that the justification of action depends (in part) on the external stuff while insisting that the justification of belief doesn't, I'd be forever grateful. If anyone has a copy of Feldman's 1988 article (something along the lines of "Objective and Subjective Duties in Ethics and Epistemology") and can email it, I'd be forever grateful.

Meanwhile, I've been reading through Herman's The Practice of Moral Judgment because she makes an honest effort at trying to reconcile the idea that, "the objects of moral assessment are not events or states of affairs, but willings" with moral intuitions that suggest that omissions, mishaps, accidents, and many other well-intentioned actions can have moral significance. She asks us to consider an example in which someone intends to return a borrowed clock but fails to do what she intends. Does the failure of execution have moral significance? It doesn't seem to show that there's any defect in the agent's will, but she concedes that there's a perfectly good sense in which the agent has failed to live up to her duties. As I understand it, she thinks that the story to tell will try to explain the special duty that the agent has to the person who loaned the clock in the following way: the agent realizes that her end was not realized and so she must either adopt a new end or adopt new means. Insofar as she's not free to adopt a new end (because there was the perfect duty to return the clock), this is why she can't "wash her hands" of the situation after the failure.

I think there are problems with this sort of treatment of cases involving good intentions and bad results, but it's perhaps worth noting that this sort of story seems to have no application whatsoever to cases in which the agent tries to perform an action that the agent had discretion in deciding whether to perform it and accidentally brings about some bad state of affairs in the course of acting on her intention to perform the action. If there's no Kantian story to be told about such cases, then we can set aside questions about the plausibility of the story, and note that intuition really does speak against the idea that the only objects of moral assessment are willings unless some story about reparative* (as opposed to reparative) duties can be told.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

All rules are defeasible

Yes, that includes the rule that enjoins us to hop over fences to hug adorably cute bears.

Seems hardly fair

Friday, November 21, 2008

Yes, the folk are (typically) externalists

The survey results are in and of the 133 students polled, 75% said that there was a more stringent duty for Plum to assist Peacock.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The folk concept of justification


Cook. Peacock just moved into the apartment next to Plum and to welcome her, Plum cooked her dinner. She did not realize this at the time, but the mushrooms she used in making her dinner were poisonous. (So far as this is possible, imagine that she is not culpable or blameworthy for her ignorance. She used a field guide for distinguishing safe from unsafe mushrooms, but it contained a few typos.) Plum has on hand the stuff to give people who eat poisoned mushrooms, but only enough for one person. It just so happens that her other neighbor, Mustard, went out picking mushrooms. He picked poisonous mushrooms for himself and put them into his salad. Now, he and Peacock are equally sick and Plum can help only one.

The story continues.
Suppose Green is also into picking mushrooms but the book he picked up from the bookstore happens to be one that contains none of the errors that Plum’s book contained. Both study their books with equal diligence. Both have equally good memories. Both have exhaustive knowledge of the contents of their books. However, Green will always say truthfully whether a mushroom is poisonous whereas Plum will make the occasional mistake. We ask Green and Plum about a specific mushroom, one that we happen to know Green’s book is right about and that Plum’s book is wrong about. When asked, Green and Plum both believe that their answers are correct. However, Green’s belief is true and Plum’s belief is false.

I asked the following question.

(Q1) Should we say that Green’s belief is better justified than Plum’s belief? The results:

Yes: 26
No: 30

Make of it what you will. I'll note that the kids that said 'Yes' had higher grades on the exam.

Just kidding, I don't know if that's true.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Reparative Duties and Reasons

A really good question:
Suppose you think (like most people) that an action can (a) have unintended bad consequences but (b) not be morally wrong. If there are such actions and you perform one, I'd think that you have a prima facie duty to repair its consequences that is not a "mere duty of beneficence". I'm tempted to call it a "reparative duty", but clearly it wouldn't be if such duties only arise in response to past wrongs. That's just a terminological problem, though.

So that's the kind of duty Plum has to help Cook, and she doesn't have that kind of duty to help Mustard. That's why (a) is right. What's wrong with saying something like this?

Here's my answer. It's sketchy and I'm short on sleep, but I think the question really helps focus the discussion. Here goes. First, we have to figure out what 'wrong' amounts to. Let's say that we reject the closure view of wrongdoing and say that an action can be wrong without being all things considered wrong. On this usage, all that 'wrong' amounts to is this: there was a pro tanto moral reason not to do it.

Second, we have to figure out what your proposal would amount to if 'wrong' is understood in this way. It seems that the proposal would be that there can be reparative* duties in the absence of wrongdoing (I'm using the '*' to indicate that these are more stringent duties that apply only to some in the absence of a previous wrong on the relevant agent's part). That is to say, you can have a reparative* duty to rectify some bad state of affairs that others aren't under even though there was never prior to this time a pro tanto reason to refrain from bringing about this bad state of affairs. But, this is what's odd. If there were two people who could help, one who caused the bad state of affairs and one who did not, I take it that you'd want to say that the causally responsible agent is under some reparative* duty whereas the other is under some mere duty of beneficence. But, if there was never a reason for the first to refrain from bringing about the bad state of affairs, why would this be?

Now, much of this is sketchy and you might have a different sense of 'wrong' in mind. Obviously, the more you read into 'wrong', the more plausible your suggestion is. The less you read into 'wrong', the harder it is to work out the details of the view that I think you're proposing. But, it's a good question/suggestion.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Poll & Argument

An overwhelming majority of students polled picked (a). Here's an argument. In Cook, it seems intuitively that Plum has a more stringent duty to assist Peacock than to assist Mustard. If Plum’s duty to Peacock was just some prima facie duty of beneficence, it would be difficult to see why the duty to Peacock is more stringent. It is tempting to think that Plum’s duty is no mere duty of beneficence. It seems it must be some kind of reparative duty and that the reparative duties do not depend on culpability or fault for the commission of the initial wrong.

Is this right? Is the reason that the duty to Peacock is more stringent is that Plum is righting some past wrong of hers by assisting Peacock?

[This is the poll from the previous post. Polling is still open.]

Cook. Peacock just moved into the apartment next to Plum and to welcome her, Plum cooked her dinner. She did not realize this at the time, but the mushrooms she used in making her dinner were poisonous. (So far as this is possible, imagine that she is not culpable or blameworthy for her ignorance. She used a field guide for distinguishing safe from unsafe mushrooms, but it contained a few typos.) Plum has on hand the stuff to give people who eat poisoned mushrooms, but only enough for one person. It just so happens that her other neighbor, Mustard, went out picking mushrooms. He picked poisonous mushrooms for himself and put them into his salad. Now, he and Peacock are equally sick and Plum can help only one. Pick the best answer.

(a) She has a stronger duty to help Peacock first because she poisoned her.
(b) She has a stronger duty to help Mustard first.
(c) She should help someone but it should not matter who she helps first.


Cook. Peacock just moved into the apartment next to Plum and to welcome her, Plum cooked her dinner. She did not realize this at the time, but the mushrooms she used in making her dinner were poisonous. (So far as this is possible, imagine that she is not culpable or blameworthy for her ignorance. She used a field guide for distinguishing safe from unsafe mushrooms, but it contained a few typos.) Plum has on hand the stuff to give people who eat poisoned mushrooms, but only enough for one person. It just so happens that her other neighbor, Mustard, went out picking mushrooms. He picked poisonous mushrooms for himself and put them into his salad. Now, he and Peacock are equally sick and Plum can help only one. Pick the best answer.

(a) She has a stronger duty to help Peacock first because she poisoned her.
(b) She has a stronger duty to help Mustard first.
(c) She should help someone but it should not matter who she helps first.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Justification and evidence


JE: The belief that p is part of what justifies S in believing that q only if p is included in S’s evidence.

I think this principle is an assumption in C & K's attack on Williamson. Is it true? That is difficult to say. Here's an argument that it's not, inspired by Dodd's criticism of Williamson and some stuff Pryor has been dealing with because of his dogmatism. Suppose that p is the belief that I have hands and it is supported by experience. Let's say that the experience is the evidence for p. If you accept dogmatism, you'll say that the evidence of the senses could suffice for justified acceptance of p even though p is not certain given the evidence. But, then it seems that once p is itself part of the evidence, the evidential probability of p raises from some value less than 1 to 1. More plausible, I think, to say that if you accept that you can justifiably accept p on the basis of evidence that leaves p less than certain, that is precisely why justified acceptance of p does not necessitate p's inclusion in your evidence.

I haven't checked, but I think this deals with C & K's argument that E = K is incompatible with closure as well.

I haven't addressed Juan's comments yet, but I have a very rough draft.

More E = K

It's also worth remembering that there's not much that's new under the sun. According to Williamson, E = K. Assuming that 'knows' is factive, we get E --> T. There was a time when some thought that Gettier's examples were defective because they assumed the principle that someone can be justified in accepting a proposition, h, on evidence p even if p is false. Clearly, the thought was that evidence can justify only if it consists of true propositions. The problem with this, as Feldman pointed out long ago in his, "An Alleged Defect in Gettier-Counter Examples" is that even if the principle is true, there are still counterexamples to the JTB analysis. He gives examples in which there's a justified belief that is true, that doesn't constitute knowledge, and that doesn't derive from a false belief.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Once again into the E = K fray!

I'm reading Comesana and Kantin's forthcoming PPR piece, "Is Evidence Knowledge?" (here). They argue that E = K is incompatible with the existence of Gettier cases and that it is incompatible with closure. I don't have time for the second complaint, but I'd like to quickly address the first.

They attack: (E = K 1): The proposition that p justifies S in believing that q only if S knows p.

They allege that (E = K 1) is incompatible with Gettier cases, but focus on a single case, Coins:
You are waiting to hear who among the candidates got a job.
You hear the secretary say on the telephone that Jones got the job.
You also see Jones empty his pockets and count his coins: he has
ten. You are, then, justified in believing that Jones got the job and
also that Jones has ten coins in his pocket. From these two beliefs
of yours, you infer the conclusion that whoever got the job has ten
coins in his pocket. Unbeknownst to you, the secretary was wrong
and Jones did not get the job; in fact, you did. By chance, you
happen to have ten coins in your pocket

Minor point. Not every Gettier case has the structure of coins, so even if you can't say that there's a justified, true belief that fails to constitute knowledge in this case it hardly follows that Gettier cases as such are ruled out by (E = K 1). Less minor point. What's the problem supposed to be? They say, "What is justified in Coins is the belief that whoever got the job has ten coins in his pocket. But what justifies the subject in having that belief is (in part) his false belief that Jones got the job". Minor point. If this is a datum that our theories of evidence need to accommodate, then on any view on which our evidence consists of facts or propositions, there cannot be Gettier cases. Less minor point. Among the things that the subject knows is that the subject has this belief, the belief is well supported by the evidence, etc... It's hardly obvious that (E = K 1) rules out the false belief from playing some justificatory role. What it rules out is just this: that the content of the false belief is a part of the subject's evidence. In other words, it seems that C & K are really offering this argument:

(1) According to E = K, there are no false propositions that are included in a subject's evidence.
(2) If there are no false propositions included in someone's evidence, Coins is not a Gettier case.
(3) Coins is a Gettier case.
(C1) There are false propositions included in someone's evidence.
(C2) We must reject (E = K 1).

I'd reject the factivity of 'knows' and save E = K that way. Just kidding. Alan Hazlett has dibs on that move. While it's true that there cannot be false propositions included in someone's evidence if (E = K 1) is true, I distinctly remember asking a while back if _anyone_ thought that there could be false propositions included in someone's evidence and the response seemed to be that there couldn't. That's hardly an argument, but there's something very strange to this objection. Now, C & K say that, "there is no argument that we can think of to the effect that your (false) belief that Jones got the job plays no part whatsoever in justifying you in thinking that whoever got the job has ten coins in his pocket". But there is. It's the argument that says that false propositions cannot be included in your evidence.

Now, it might be a bad argument, but to paraphrase, bad arguments are a kind of argument. So, here it is. One problem with saying that there could be false propositions emerges if we think about these exchanges:

Scarlet: Do they have solid evidence against Mustard?
Green: Yes. They have all sorts of evidence against him; namely, that he was the last one to see the victim alive, that his alibi did not check out, that his fingerprints were on the murder weapon, and that he had written a letter to his brother containing details only the killer could have known.

Later, Peacock and Plum talk things over:
Peacock: How strong is their evidence against Mustard?
Plum: I've heard that the evidence is pretty strong. But, if Mustard’s fingerprints are not really on the murder weapon, his alibi checks out, he was not the last one
seen with the victim, and there is nothing in his letters that actually indicate he had any insider’s knowledge of the killings, that is perfectly consistent with the evidence they do have.

It seems that in speaking to Plum and Green contradict one another. The natural explanation for this is that if it really is part of the evidence that Mustard’s fingerprints are on the murder weapon, then it is true that his fingerprints are on the murder weapon. So, if that it is right, an assertion of the form ‘His evidence is that p, q, and r’ entails that p, q, and r are true.

The presentation of the example in Gettier's original paper:
Suppose that Smith and Jones have applied for a certain job. And suppose that Smith has strong evidence for the following conjunctive proposition:

(d) Jones is the man who will get the job, and Jones has ten coins in his pocket.

Smith's evidence for (d) might be that the president of the company assured him that Jones would in the end be selected, and that he, Smith, had counted the coins in Jones's pocket ten minutes ago. Proposition (d) entails:

(e) The man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket.

Let us suppose that Smith sees the entailment from (d) to (e), and accepts (e) on the grounds of (d), for which he has strong evidence. In this case, Smith is clearly justified in believing that (e) is true.

But imagine, further, that unknown to Smith, he himself, not Jones, will get the job. And, also, unknown to Smith, he himself has ten coins in his pocket. Proposition (e) is then true, though proposition (d), from which Smith inferred (e), is false. In our example, then, all of the following are true: (i) (e) is true, (ii) Smith believes that (e) is true, and (iii) Smith is justified in believing that (e) is true. But it is equally clear that Smith does not know that (e) is true; for (e) is true in virtue of the number of coins in Smith's pocket, while Smith does not know how many coins are in Smith's pocket, and bases his belief in (e) on a count of the coins in Jones's pocket, whom he falsely believes to be the man who will get the job.

Deontological externalism

I'm quite fond of this argument:
(1) The notion of justified action is a deontological notion.
(2) The notion of justified action is an externalist notion.
(C1) Not all deontological notions are internalist notions.
(3) If justified belief were an internalist notion, justified action would either not be a deontological notion or would not be an externalist notion.
(C2) Justified belief is an externalist notion.

I've defended (3) previously appealing to considerations having to do with moral psychology and observations that often arise in connection with discussions of the toxin puzzle. Suppose (3) is true.* What defense can be given in support of (2)?

I'm planning on doing some polling this next week of students to test to see if their intuitions support (2). I suspect they will, but I'd also not be surprised if X-philes might not be able to generate data that seems to contradict (2). Here's the plan. I'll try to elicit intuitions about a specific sort of case. I'll focus on cases in which an agent takes due care but nevertheless brings about some bad state of affairs. I'll then see whether students are inclined to think that the agent has a more stringent obligation to assist those who are harmed by her having brought about this bad state of affairs than to assist agents who have been harmed by similar bad states of affairs but states of affairs not caused by the agent. My hunch is that they'll think that there's comparatively a more stringent obligation to the one whose harm was caused by the agent. Theoretically, I think that such a result would suggest that conditions 'external' to the agent can go towards determining the deontic status of the agent's actions. The thought is that the best explanation of the difference in comparative stringency is due to the fact that the initial course of action was wrongful and that the difference in the stringency of the duty is a reflection of the fact that the duty being discharged is no mere duty of beneficence, it is a duty of reparation.


* A joke I owe to Steve Sverdlik.
Geometry teacher: Suppose that this is an isosceles...
Concerned student: But teacher, suppose it isn't!


Why is there no additional reasoning that takes you from the judgment that you should straightaway A and the intention to A or the A-ing itself?

I suppose you could say that practical reasoning ends with the formation of the practical belief and that this is why the reasons that bear on whether to judge that you should A are just the reasons that bear on whether to A, but is there a better answer?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obama, now that you work for me ...

Dear President-elect Obama:

First, congratulations on your victory.

Second, please disregard Chuck Norris' letter. I don't care if the guy does clog the toilet when he pees. Your biggest test is not whether you be able to lead the other half of the country that doesn't agree with your vision, views and policies. There is no "other half". Chuck sucks at math. He's not even that great at karate.

Another one of your 300 million bosses,

Clayton Littlejohn

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Good news and a question

I've just received word that I'll be presenting my paper on epistemic value, evidentialism, and the problem of epistemic encroachment at the Epistemic Goodness conference. It's rare that there are conferences are held in easy driving distance from Dallas, so I don't do as many conferences as I'd like these days. I should have a draft to post soon, but not too soon. It's grading and job season.

Here's the question. Must an essentially omniscient being have an infinite number of beliefs? I'd think that the answer is obviously 'Yes'. But, how to justify that answer?

Suppose you say that the essentially omniscient being is omniscient and has the property of being omniscient essentially. If we say that an omniscient being knows every true proposition and believes no false propositions, we'd have to assume that there is an infinite number of true propositions known and believed by this being. I suppose you might say 'Well, there clearly is an infinite number of such propositions. There's an infinite number of mathematical truths.' That seems okay, but I suppose if someone really wanted to defend the idea that the omniscient being had but a finite number of beliefs or items of knowledge, they might say that this being's perfect knowledge of mathematics could be understood in terms of a finite set of beliefs in light of which this being is disposed to answer correctly any question about mathematics. But, this response assumes that the set of all mathematical truths could be derived from this finite stock of starting beliefs. I think, but I'm far from certain, that this has been ruled out by Godel's first incompleteness theorem.

But, what if someone just modifies the definition of omniscience. Suppose they think that no being could have an infinite number of beliefs and say that (a) the omniscient being knows everything that can be known or (b) knows as much as can be known. You couldn't argue that there are no omniscient beings by, say, arguing that such a being would have to have an infinite collection of beliefs and then argue that there are no actual infinities. I think this is sort of a cop out, but is there any contradiction to saying that the essentially omniscient being fails to know some mathematical truths if we work with this definition of omniscience? It seems that there is an infinite stock of propositions that can be known, but while on (a) that means that the omniscient being would have to have an infinite number of beliefs on (b) it's not so clear.

Embryonic stem cell research

It looks like Obama will reverse Bush's policies on funding for ESCR:
In August 2001, Bush barred the National Institutes of Health from funding research on embryonic stem cells other than that using 60 cell lines existing when he signed the executive order.

Researchers say the ban has limited their progress and want the opportunity to create new stem cells from human embryos. Many conservatives, however, object to the destruction of human embryos because they believe it ends a human life.

On his campaign Web site, Obama said he supports the creation of new stem cells from embryos created for in vitro fertilization treatments that would otherwise be discarded.

But White House spokeswoman Dana Perino on Monday suggested that the incoming Obama administration should consider keeping Bush's policy in place.

I've asked this before and figure I'll give it another shot. Suppose there are two embryos in an IVF clinic. One would be implanted first. If all went as planned, the second embryo wouldn't be needed and would be discarded. A coin is flipped and the coin determines which embryo is implanted first. It turns out that the first embryo successfully implants and the second is discarded. Suppose that had the coin flip gone differently, the second would have implanted and the first discarded. Does it make any sense to say that the first embryo was "lucky" to have won that coin flip? More to the point, does it make any sense to say that second was "unlucky" to have lost that flip and to be pitched with other unneeded embryos?

[Update. So far, no thinks that there can be lucky embryos. Flash forward twenty years. After the embryo implanted, it developed into a fetus. The fetus developed into an infant. That infant grew into Charlie. Should we say of that twenty year old, Charlie, that he was lucky that that embryo won the coin toss? Let's assume that Charlie's life is pretty good.]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


AUSTIN — State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar isn't backing down from her claim that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is plotting with terrorists to attack the U.S.

The Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group that monitors the board, released a public statement on Monday asking Dunbar to retract the statement.

"I don't have anything in there that would be retractable," said Dunbar, R-Richmond. "Those are my personal opinions and I don't think the language is questionable."

In a column posted on the Christian Worldview Network Web site, Dunbar wrote that a terrorist attack on America during the first six months of an Obama administration "will be a planned effort by those with whom Obama truly sympathizes to take down the America that is threat to tyranny."

It's too bad she can't be fired.

(You can read the rest of the story here.)

Monday, November 10, 2008


Why don't we start an international needling campaign? This month, start to needle your colleagues about getting referee reports done in time for the job market. If they start to moan about their work loads, you can tell them that some people manage to get their referee reports in on time even though they teach much, much more than they do. (If someone's teaching seven courses this semester, I take that back.) I can't speak for everyone, but speaking as an author if I had to choose between a 12+ month wait for a referee's report and a more reasonable time table for a verdict, I don't think I'd have any preference for the longer wait unless the comments were exceptionally good. (I doubt that the reason people take 12+ months is that they are trying to write up unimaginably good comments.) I don't think my preferences here are idiosyncratic. Maybe editors have different preferences, but I doubt it.

So, commence needling.

(Fwiw, I might have some vested interest here. I have a fair number of works that have been tied up in the review process for 11+ months. That being said, I've also had some success this year. I don't think that this bottleneck will necessarily keep me from getting the interviews I don't land this year. But, I know what it's like to go on the market without publications knowing that the manuscripts I've submitted should have received their verdicts prior to the job hunt. It's a horrible experience to go through and I can't understand why we'd be unwilling to do what must be done to spare our colleagues the pain and frustration.)

That's some good governatin'

From The Governator:
"It is unfortunate," Schwarzenegger said. "But it is not the end because I think this will go back into the courts. ... It's the same as in the 1948 case when blacks and whites were not allowed to marry. This falls into the same category."

[Update. I've never liked The Governator. (Well, I liked him before he was The Governator.) That being said, I'm glad he's speaking out on this. Anon asked how anyone could put same sex marriage in the same category as interracial marriage. Here's how. There's no difference between 'not different' and 'the same'. I don't see any difference between heterosexual and homosexual marriage. I don't think anyone else does, either. They think they do, but that's just an indication that there's something wrong with them. I'm tired of giving arguments, but if you have some you want to offer you can. Non-anonymous comments preferred.]

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Saturday! Saturday! Saturday! Saturday! Saturday! Saturday!

Bah! I've been grading all day. My goal is to grade 25 papers per day so that I might be able to get the grading out of the way in eight days and get a little extra time to finish off a draft of a paper on the ethics of belief that I want to submit for the Young Epistemologist Prize. I'm on the seventeenth paper right now and should be able to knock out the final eight while I still have the apartment to myself. The thing is that I keep getting distracted. It's the damn internets. They're great for hunting cheaters, but bad because when you get on them to hunt for the cheaters they keep leading you to things like recipes for making lasagna in your dishwasher. If you're feeling dangerous, try whipping up a batch of dishwasher lasagna florentine.


I've been wanting to see them for years and last night I had my chance.

I think music videos should generally not try to be better than this one. (It's not that it's good, it's just that trying to improve on this kind of misses the point.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Same sex marriage, conscience, and coercion

When it comes to assigning readings on same sex marriage, I'm never quite sure what to assign. I've always assigned a piece of Wedgwood's, but it's not easy to find something that argues against the recognition of SSM. There was some discussion at Crooked Timber and a few folks seemed to think that Jeff Jordan's, "Is it wrong to discriminate on the basis of homosexuality?" seemed to be a crowd favorite. It's a fun article to discuss, but I feel a bit dirty after the discussion. Really, this is the best that people can come up with to argue against the recognition of same sex marriage? It almost makes me feel bad for the opponents of same sex marriage.

He writes:
For the government to sanction same-sex marriage ... would ally the government with one side of the public dilemma and against the adherents of religious-based moralities ... In that event, the religion-based morality proponents are faced with a public, state sanctioned matter which they find seriously immoral. This would be an example of a resolution via declaration.

This is supposed to be very bad. For suppose we accept this principle:
A. no just government can coerce a citizen into violating a deeply held moral belief or religious belief.

Then we have our argument against same-sex marriage:
Principle (A), conjoined with there being a public dilemma arising over the issue of same-sex marriages, leads to the observation that if the state were to sanction same-sex marriages, then persons who have profound religious or moral objections to such unions would be legally mandated to violate their beliefs since there does not appear to be any feasible "exit right" possible with regard to state sanctioned marriage.

I don't think (A) is true, but so what. Loads of things that figure in our arguments aren't true, that's not the problem. The problem is that there's no obvious candidate for the belief that religious believers are coerced to act against if SSM is recognized.

If you think I'm wrong, tell me what the belief is. Don't quote me verse that tells you not to engage in homosexual conduct, that's not the issue. The issue has to do with matters in the public sphere and I'm sceptical that there's any injunction in either the Old or New Testaments for believers to use political means for preventing people from marrying in ways that these texts say we oughtn't. So, here's the question. Is there some imperative that religious believers actually believe themselves to be under to use the law to prevent same-sex couples from marrying? Does it have a scriptural basis in The Book of Hezekiah?

Thursday, November 6, 2008


(1) If you intend to A and it's not the case that you shouldn't so intend, it's not the case that you shouldn't A.

(2) If you believe that you should A and it's not the case that you shouldn't so believe, it's not the case that you shouldn't intend to A.

It's wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything on insufficient evidence. Sure, let's take that as given. Is it wrong ever, anywhere, for anyone to believe on sufficient evidence?

That depends on what 'sufficient' means, I suppose, but on any non-sceptical view, it's possible to permissibly judge that p is true having only non-entailing evidence. If two subjects have the same evidence, if it is sufficient for the first to judge that p, I take it that the evidentialists ought to say the same for the second. (To bracket worries about pragmatic encroachment, fix all the rest of the mental states, too.)

Suppose that there's some fact f such that it meets these conditions:
(i) this fact doesn't supervene on the subject's evidence;
(ii) this isn't a fact the subject can reasonably take to be a fact given her evidence;
and (iii) in light of this fact the subject oughtn't A.

If such a fact exists, I think we've refuted evidentialism about epistemic permissibility. But, maybe there are counterexamples to (1) and (2).

That's a BIG country

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

7:23 EST

I'm calling it for Obama.

Way ahead of major news organizations.

I see that Josh Marshall is doing some live blogging and has some exit polling data:
Georgia: McCain 50%, Obama 48%
Indiana: Obama 52%, McCain 46%
Virginia: Obama 54%, McCain 45%

He hasn't called it yet. Coward. I didn't wait for any facts to come in and he's worrying about the significance of the facts in front of him. Some of us just reason a bit more boldly than others.

Dole is out! Seems Hagan, a godless lib, has turned Helms' former district blue!

Sunday, November 2, 2008