Wednesday, July 30, 2008

McCain's Paradox

I will not raise taxes, but everything is on the table.

This is a perfectly absurd thing to say, although what is asserted is something which is perfectly logically possible; it is perfectly possible that McCain will not raise taxes but is now leaving everything on the table.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bleg!!!

I've been working on a paper on reasons for belief and epistemic justification and need to track down something. Consider this passage from Matthias Steup's, "A Defense of Internalism":
My reason for placing a direct recognizability constraint on J-factors is that I take the concept of epistemic justification to be a deontological one. I believe that epistemic justification is analogous to moral justification in the following sense: Both kinds of justification belong to the family of deontological concepts, concepts such as permission, prohibition, obligation, blame, and responsibility. An act that is morally justified is an act that is not morally permissible, an act for which one cannot be justly blamed, or an act the agent was not obliged to refrain from performing. I conceive of epistemic justification in an analogous way. A belief that is epistemically justified is a belief that is epistemically permissible, a belief for which the subject cannot justly be blamed, or a belief the subject is not obliged to drop


Then, later:
In ethics, it is particularly clear, as Linda Zagzebski has pointed out, nearly unquestioned, that responsibility and duty fulfillment demand direct recognizability ... No one defends the view that what makes an action morally justified or unjustified is something the agent cannot directly recognize. Rather, what makes actions justified or unjustified must be, at least ordinarily, directly recognizable. Likewise, if epistemic justification is analogous to the justification of actions in being deontological, then what makes beliefs epistemically justified or unjustified must be, at least ordinarily, directly recognizable


I've tracked down the passage from Zagzebski but she offers no citations or arguments for the claim that no one defends the view in question and there's a footnote in the Steup paper that says that his remarks concern justification rather than rightness. I can't make heads or tails of the suggestion that there are justified actions that aren't right to perform, but let that pass. Here's the question. Steup isn't alone in saying that on the deontic conception of justification, justified belief = permissible belief = belief the subject cannot justly be blamed for holding = belief the subject is not obliged to drop.

Where are the arguments that explain the identification of permissible belief with blamelessly held belief? I've seen something from Carl Ginet where he appeals to "ought" implies "can" principle to try to show that there cannot be more to justified belief than belief blamelessly held or responsibly held (not that those come to the same thing either!). Any others? I do not understand why the standard statement of deontic justification sticks together the claim that a justified belief is permissible or blameless.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What the???

McCain knows how to capture Bin Laden. So, why hasn't he? Is the idea that if we elect Obama he'll carry the secret to the grave?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Reasons and justification

I'm enjoying the sun and reading John Gardner's Offences and Defences. Excellent, excellent read. Right now, I'm focusing on his discussion of the relationship between reasons and justification. On his view, justification depends on both guiding and explanatory reasons:
No action or belief is justified unless it is true both that there was an applicable (guiding) reason for so acting or so believing and that this corresponded with the (explanatory) reason why the action was performed or the belief held. It follows that the common view that there are two different perspectives on justification, a 'subjective' (explanatory reason) perspective and an 'objective' (guiding reason), must be rejected (94).

I think he's right that we ought to reject talk of subjective and objective justification. It's a shallow way of trying not to deal with a real issue. That being said, it seems to me that you could say that justification depends on both guiding and explanatory reasons without adopting the further view that there is 'correspondence' between the explanatory and guiding reasons. Instead of saying that the justification of action depends both on conforming to the relevant guiding reasons' demands and acting from an undefeated reason (Gardner's view, if I understand him), we could say that the justification of the action depends negatively on the sort of explanatory reasons that led the agent to act or believe. While acting from the wrong sort of reason could make an otherwise justifiable action unjustified, the justification of the action does not depend on both conforming to the relevant guiding reasons and being moved by considerations that 'correspond' to an undefeated reason.

Why does Gardner prefer the view that one must act for an undefeated reason to perform a justified action to the view that there must be an available justification for that action? He says that while, "guiding reasons for an against action are there to guide actions, not to guide explanatory reasons for action", it does not follow that "guiding reasons wash their hands of the quality of our reasoning, so long as we do the right thing in the end" (100). They do not because, "it is a basic principle of practical rationality ... that one should always act for some undefeated reason, i.e., that at least one of the (guiding) reasons in favor of doing as one did should have been one's (explanatory) reason for doing it" (100).

The justification Gardner offers for this principle is instrumental. He writes, "principles of rationality exist purely to guide us towards conformity with moral reasons, legal reasons, and so on, whatever those reasons may happen to be" (100). What's puzzling about this is that on the occasion where we do the right thing in the end, so to speak, there's nothing left to do to conform to the demands of the relevant reasons. Now, I don't think that Gardner denies this. Things become more puzzling if we note, as he does earlier in the chapter, that in the strict sense a justification is called for when someone has reason not to act or believe as one does (95). It seems that there's nothing objectionable per se about someone's conforming to a guiding reason acting on either a defeated reason or a reason that could not defeat one of the reasons against the action. There is something objectionable about someone's acting from bad motives or with evil intentions, but you can avoid doing that without acting from (explanatory) reasons that correspond to an undefeated guiding reason. When you know that this is what you're doing, I can't see what work is left for the principle of practical rationality.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A quick, but decisive, refutation

I spend a decent amount of time flipping through the OUP-UK and OUP-USA sites looking longingly at forthcoming philosophy titles. This one caught my eye:

Was Jesus God?
Richard Swinburne

Writing clearly and powerfully, Swinburne argues that it is probable that the main Christian doctrines about the nature of God and his actions in the world are true. In virtue of his omnipotence and perfect goodness, the author shows, God must be a Trinity, live a human life in order to share our suffering, and found a church which would enable him to tell all humans about this. It is also quite probable that he would provide his human life as atonement for our wrongdoing, teach us how we should live, and tell us his plans for our future after death. Among founders of religions, Jesus uniquely satisfies the requirement of living the sort of human life which God would need to have lived. But to give us adequate reason to believe that Jesus was God, God would need to put his "signature" on the life of Jesus by an act which he alone could do--raise him from the dead. And there is adequate historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.


Funny, but I thought a handful of people died before this church was founded. I'm sure the story in the book is more subtle, but the story on the book looks most unpromising.

Friday, July 18, 2008

!!!

I've received word that APQ has accepted, "'Ought', 'Can', and Practical Reasons". (I'll post the latest draft, but I'm in the midst of switching laptops at the moment.) Thanks to all of you who offered comments on posts related to the manuscript below. It's nice to think that now I have a fair claim to being a two-trick pony.

I'll be presenting a version of the paper at a poster session at the Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress in early August (here). It's been ages since I've managed to get to a philosophy conference, so I'm really looking forward to spending some time in Colorado before school starts back up. Speaking of which, I'm thinking a bit about teaching next semester. It's going to be a brutal semester as I'm now slated to teach six courses. I'll be teaching a beginning logic course for the first time in years and I'd be curious to know if anyone has any reason to think it would be good to avoid using Hurley's textbook. Any suggestions would be fantastic.

Hey, Tim and Michael!

I had a post in late May on reasons for action and received some really good comments from a number of people (here). If Tim and Michael would let me know who they are, I'd like to thank them officially in the paper that addressed some of the issues from that post. Either leave a comment with last names below or send me an email at cmlittlejohnATyahoo.com.

Thanks,
Clayton

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Reasons and knowledge

Here's a little problem about knowledge and reasons.

It seems on its face that these don't come to the same thing:
(1) If there's reason to A and no reason not to, you ought to A.
(2) If there's reason to A and no reason of which you're aware not to, you ought to A.

I'd accept (1) (perhaps with qualifications), but not (2). Even if you're non-culpably ignorant of the reasons against A-ing, I think they can bear on whether to A and make it all things considered wrong to A. But, I meet plenty of folks who disagree and endorse (2). (I meet some folks who endorse (2) and seem to endorse (1) on the grounds that reasons are the sorts of things you cannot be aware of if you try to attend to them.) I suppose one argument for (2) and one argument against (1) on a reading according to which (1) isn't a consequence of (2) rests on the observation that if (1) were true it would allow for the possibility of a reason bearing on whether to A even when the subject did not know about it and so could not know how to do what she ought and respond to its demands.

The problem with this argument for preferring (2) over (1) is that similar problems arise for (2). Think about cases where a reason, R1, speaks in favor of A-ing and defeats the reason, R2, a reason that favor B-ing rather than A-ing. In this case the subject cannot know how to do what she ought and meet the demands of B-ing for the simple reason that there is no action of hers that would be her doing what she ought by B-ing. Nevertheless, the reason that favors B-ing over A-ing bears on whether she should A.

Cheap, I know, but consider a second case. This time the reasons that favor A-ing conflict with the reasons that favor B-ing rather than A-ing. The subject is fully aware of both sets of considerations but the clash between these reasons is the sort of thing that reasonable folks can disagree about. In fact, this is a case where most reasonable folks could not knowingly judge that one set of reasons determined what ought to be done. Nevertheless, by hypothesis, one of these sets of reasons really does make it the case that the subject ought to do something. However, it does so in spite of the fact that the subject cannot know what ought to be done.

Now, you might grant that this is so, but note that it differs from the first case insofar as the subject in the first case is ignorant of the existence of a reason whereas in the second the subject is ignorant of the significance of that reason when balanced against another. But, I can't see that this could matter to the sort of person that prefers (2) to (1). It's not as if the subjects in these two cases differ in terms of rationality, reasonableness, or responsibility in judging that they ought to do something rightly or wrongly. But, as the fact that the subject is not less than fully rational or reasonable in A-ing in the first case is typically offered as evidence against the possibility of reasons that make it wrong to A, I can't see how this is an available response. So, I don't see what someone should give up to defend (2) over (1).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Forthcoming Corruption Investigation Concerning SMU's Presidential Library?

There might be:
Homeland Security officials are looking into allegations that a member of the department's advisory council offered to arrange meetings with senior administration officials in exchange for a large donation to the Bush presidential library.


The story is worth reading. Not only does it give a good overview of this emerging controversy, it tells us something about Stephen Payne. He's had some sort of working relationship with President Bush for twenty years (here). He had been appointed as a member to the Homeland Security Advisory Council's subcommittee. My favorite part:
In promotional materials marked "confidential" that he later said were in draft form, Payne touted his work with an Uzbek opposition leader in a section titled "From alleged terrorist to U.S. ally -- The transformation of Muhammad Salih."

Salih, an author and opposition leader who stood unsuccessfully against Uzbek strongman Islom Karimov in the country's first presidential election in 1990, and afterwards was first jailed, then placed under house arrest, has lived in exile since 1992.

In 1999, he was tried and convicted in absentia by an Uzbek court of involvement in a series of terrorist bombings in the capital, Tashkent. Although some international observers questioned the trial's fairness, Salih was placed on the U.S. terrorism watch list and an Interpol warrant was issued for his arrest.

According to Payne's promotional materials, his company, Houston-based Worldwide Strategic Partners Inc., "worked with the White House and the Departments of State and Justice to facilitate the removal ... from the terrorist watch list and the waving of the Interpol warrant" for Salih, and helped secure him a visa to visit the United States.

Seeing that material objects can't think

Andrew has a post discussing the claim that some can just 'see' that material objects can't think (here).

I've tried my best to articulate my scepticism. First, I don't think that there's any good reason to think that someone's ability to just 'see' that material things cannot think is akin to someone's ability to just 'see' that numbers cannot have weight. I take it that the latter modal judgment is grounded in the knowledge that numbers are abstract objects and that abstract objects cannot have what is necessary for having weight. However, there are not similar grounds for denying that material objects can think. Such knowledge would either have to be grounded in some sort of conceptual truth about belief or about material objects. But, it seems:

(1) It is no part of our concept of belief that they belong to substances that are themselves immaterial.
(2) While the power to think is not part of the essence of body, there is nothing to the concept of body that excludes the possibility of thought.

If these points are both granted, I think we ought to dismiss any claim to just 'see' that material things cannot think. I also think that we have good reason to accept (1) and no good reason to reject (2).

In defense of (1). We can have a sufficient conception of belief by reflection on belief's functional role and that this conception would in no way be enriched by adding any claim that represents beliefs as things that cannot be had by something that has material parts.

In defense of (2). There is nothing to the concept of material body that _excludes_ the possibility that such bodies have the powers something has if it has a mind. To judge in the absence of specific reasons to think that thought would be excluded that thought could not arise is unjustified in light of the myriad examples of material objects having properties we could not expect them to have in virtue of the basic properties of its parts.

It's not that I'm eavesdropping...

... but I'm picking up bits and pieces of a conversation between a philosopher and I'm guessing two evangelicals sceptical of evolution. There have been scientific theories nearly universally endorsed that have turned out to be wrong, they say. And, they add, the transitional fossils just aren't there.

I'm dying to know, which has a better track record by their lights?
(a) Scientific theories contested by religiously motivated sceptics of the day.
(b) Corrections suggested by these same religiously motivated sceptics to the scientific theories of the day.

If science's poor track record is really what's doing the work for them, maybe they should just keep quiet.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Because there's no such thing as bad publicity?

As I'm sure many of you know, SMU will house the Bush Presidential Library and associated right-wing think tank. (The think tank might not be on SMU soil, so "housing" might not be strictly accurate. The faculty senate might have convinced the administration to make them park across the street.) The faculty has been assured repeatedly by the administration that this association will be good for the university. I can't imagine that this is what SMU's administration had in mind, however, when they promised that the library will be good for SMU's image:
"A lobbyist with close ties to the White House is offering access to key figures in George W Bush’s administration in return for six-figure donations to the private library being set up to commemorate Bush’s presidency.

Stephen Payne, who claims to have raised more than $1m for the president’s Republican party in recent years, said he would arrange meetings with Dick Cheney, the vice-president, Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, and other senior officials in return for a payment of $250,000 (£126,000) towards the library in Texas.

Payne, who has accompanied Bush and Cheney on several foreign trips, also said he would try to secure a meeting with the president himself. (...)

During an undercover investigation by The Sunday Times, Payne was asked to arrange meetings in Washington for an exiled former central Asian president. He outlined the cost of facilitating such access.

“The exact budget I will come up with, but it will be somewhere between $600,000 and $750,000, with about a third of it going directly to the Bush library,” said Payne, who sits on the US homeland security advisory council. (...)

Payne said the balance of the $750,000 would go to his own lobbying company, Worldwide Strategic Partners (WSP).

Asked by an undercover reporter who the politician would be able to meet for that price, Payne said: “Cheney’s possible, definitely the national security adviser [Stephen Hadley], definitely either Dr Rice or . . . I think a meeting with Dr Rice or the deputy secretary [John Negroponte] is possible . . .

“The main thing is that he [the Asian politician] comes, and he’s well received, that he meets with high-level people . . . and we send positive statements made back from the administration about ‘This guy wasn’t such a bad guy, many people have done worse’.”"


Story here.
HT to Hilzoy.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Epistemic value and evidentialism

I've been looking at Feldman's "The Ethics of Belief" (originally in PPR but reprinted in Evidentialism) and have written up a little something on an argument he offers for evidentialism as well as a problem I'm calling the problem of epistemic encroachment. Here it is. Enjoy.

The problem of epistemic encroachment is that of keeping epistemic matters from encroaching into practical matters in ways they should not. To get a sense of the problem, it seems that as we ordinarily describe moral rules or principles they seem to be the sorts of things that someone could breach without realizing it. Moreover, they seem to be the sorts of things that someone could breach even when their evidence suggests that their actions conform to the relevant rules or principles. Umpires are not supposed to call a batter out until the third strike. If the umpire harbors the non-culpably mistaken belief that the batter has already had two strikes called and pronounces the batter out upon calling the next strike, the umpire’s call might be excusable but cannot be justified. We are supposed to keep our promises. If we promise to meet with a student and simply misremember the time of the meeting, the mistaken belief that our afternoon is free might be non-culpably held and factor into our decision to spend the day reading at home. The decision not to come in to the office is not justified. The most we can hope for is an excuse. The justification of the decision to stay home requires either that the reason to head into the office is cancelled (e.g., the student calls off the meeting) or overridden (e.g., an emergency requires you to break off the meeting). As ignorance neither cancels the reason to keep the promise nor ensures that there is some overriding reason for breaking it, the failure to keep the meeting is excusable at best. It does not take too much imagination to describe cases in which epistemic counterparts perform actions on the basis of the same motives and acting from the same intentions in which one, but only one, acts with justification. The other agent, we might imagine, is to be excused for breaking a rule or breaching some norm. That this is possible is our first assumption:
(A1) It is possible for two subjects with just the same evidence to act on just the same explanatory reasons where one, but only one, subject acts permissibly.

The problem emerges when we combine this first assumption with a second and then try to reconcile these assumptions with Evidentialism. The second assumption is about motivation. It is often said that there is some internal or necessary connection between judgments or beliefs about what we ought to do and the motivation to do what we judge we ought to. It is difficult to articulate the connection precisely, but a rough account should suffice for our purposes:
(A2) If a subject judges that she ought to Φ and neither lacks the capacities for assuming responsibility for her deeds nor suffers from some sort of incapacitation, she will thereby be motivated to Φ.

It seems that these two assumptions about the justification of action and the link between action and the beliefs that constitute part of the motivation for performing them are incompatible with Evidentialism. If we imagine a pair of epistemic counterparts who both judge that they ought to Φ, we might imagine that the facts are such that it is permissible for only one of them to Φ. (Deny this, and you have effectively denied (A1).) In judging that they ought to Φ, they will thereby Φ unless they suffer from incapacitation or lack the faculties necessary for assuming responsibility for their deeds. Assuming that they do not, however, one will act impermissibly whereas the other will act permissibly. The beliefs however in light of which they are moved to act (i.e., the belief that they ought to Φ) is a belief the evidentialist cannot say that these subjects ought not hold for nothing has been said thus far to suggest that either subject lacks sufficient justification for the belief that they ought to Φ. However, given our two assumptions and the principle ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, we have an argument against Evidentialism. It cannot be that an agent ought not Φ unless they can refrain from Φ-ing. According to Evidentialism, it permissible for an agent to believe she ought to Φ even if she ought not Φ. However, on the assumption that our agent can assume responsibility for her deeds and suffers no incapacitation, she cannot both judge that she ought to Φ and refrain from Φ-ing. So, either she is permitted to both believe and act on that belief or permitted to do neither. The reason that this is the problem of epistemic encroachment is that unless the evidentialist rejects what seems to be an eminently plausible assumption about motivation, the evidentialist must reject (A1) if the evidentialist is to remain true to Evidentialism.

Thinking about this problem should help us see what is wrong with the standard defenses of Evidentialism as well as the arguments offered in its support. Unless the evidentialist rejects (A1), the evidentialist would have to say that while the counterpart of the agent who acted permissibly who failed to do what she ought to have done was no less than fully reasonable, responsible, or respectable insofar as this person was led to act on the basis of the evidence at hand. However, they would have to say, that the agent was no less than fully reasonable, responsible, and is perfectly respectable they failed to act with justification. The evidentialist would have to go on to say that the marks in light of which we say that the subject was rational, reasonable, and responsible for having Φ’d are not the marks of justification. The evidentialist would then be hard pressed to explain why the mark of epistemic justification is that the subject was rational, reasonable, or responsible for having believed. There would be nothing to the concept of justification that would suggest that it followed from the subject’s being fully reasonable, responsible, and rationale that the subject’s responses to the reasons available were justified. So, the supervenience of epistemic justification on the evidence would not be something we could understand in terms of the concept of justification. It would have to be the ‘epistemicness’, as it were, of epistemic justification that was the key to understanding the evidentialist’s supervenience thesis. But, it is obscure why the epistemicness of epistemic justification helps us see why the evidentialist’s supervenience thesis should hold in spite of the absence of any connection between the generic concept of justification and evidence or concepts having to do with responsibility or rationality. What seems distinctive of epistemic justification is that it justifies something aimed at truth whereas practical justification justifies something aimed at something other than truth, but nevertheless external to the agent. If the reason (A1) is true is that action is, or ought to be, concerned with matters external to the subject, then the thesis that belief is, or ought to be, concerned with matters external to the subject (e.g., conforming to the norm that enjoins us to refrain from misrepresenting the world), the epistemicness of epistemic justification is not going to help shed light on the evidentialist’s supervenience thesis.

The evidentialist is free to reject (A1), but this comes with costs. Among them is that the evidentialist would have to say that epistemic encroachment is something we must live with and that the permissibility of an action does not depend on what ordinary subjects take it to. Staying home to read is perfectly fine regardless of the promises that you made because what matters are the promises you seem to have made. Forgotten promises have no bearing on permissibility. Imagined promises, I imagine, would. One of the oddities of this view is that it seems to clash with certain intuitively plausible claims about the kinds of value that ought to factor into a judgment about what to do. Whereas it seems that the values served by kept promises and the values harmed by broken ones are what the agent takes to factor into the judgment about where to be, on this view this sort of value does not bear on whether to keep the promise. Rather, the only value that bears on whether to keep a promise is the value that attaches to, say, an agent’s trying to keep a promise from the right sort of motive. As someone with pluralist sympathies, I would not wish to deny that there is something of value to see in someone’s failures to keep promises, say, when they truly desire to keep them. However, it seems that this sort of value calls for a different sort of response than the value that attaches to, say, a person’s actually keeping a promise. The value that is served by promise keeping and discharging the duty of fidelity is the kind of value that calls for a kind of response, which is the agent’s keeping of the promise. The value that we see in some failures to keep a promise (e.g., the failure that is due to a mistaken belief) is not one that bears on whether the agent ought to act in a certain way, but one that calls out for respect or admiration. It is not the value the deliberating agent has in mind when deciding what to do, but what others have in mind when trying to decide whether to praise the agent or punish her. In fact, it is not clear that it is a value that calls for promotion rather than, say, honoring or appreciation. I cannot see how those who reject (A1) while retaining (A2) in order to remain true to their evidentialist commitments can avoid making just this confusion about the types of value and the kinds of responses these values call for.

The reason that the problem of epistemic encroachment is a problem is that we ought not rewrite ethics in order to accommodate Evidentialism. It seems we would have revise our ethical views to accommodate Evidentialism given our assumption about the link between belief and motivation. If the reader agrees that this much is correct, we not only have an argument against Evidentialism, we can now see what is wrong with a recent argument that has been offered in support of it. In support of the claim that the beliefs an individual ought to have are those that are supported by the evidence that individual possesses, Feldman claims that, “following one’s evidence is the proper way to achieve something of epistemic value”. As he notes:
While true beliefs may have considerable instrumental value, a person who irrationally believes lots of truths is not doing well epistemically. In contrast, a person who forms a lot of rational but false beliefs is doing well epistemically. While knowledge has a kind of value, seeing it as the only thing of epistemic value fails to explain what is valuable about forming beliefs that fall short of knowledge. We avoid these problems associated with identifying epistemic value with true belief or with knowledge if instead we say that what have value are rational beliefs.

These claims about epistemic value have their plausibility, but evidentialism is a claim about justified belief and permissible belief. We need a way to translate talk of epistemic value into claims about justified belief, and Feldman makes two further claims. First, that we maximize epistemic value by forming those beliefs we are rational for forming (i.e., that we maximize epistemic value by following the evidence). Second, that the believer ought to form those beliefs that would maximize epistemic value.

In light of what we have seen, we ought to see now why this argument cannot be used to establish Evidentialism. There might be a kind of epistemic value that attaches to the false beliefs that lead us to act in ways that we ought not. After all, there is a kind of moral value that we can see in someone’s failing to do what she should provided that the failure is excusable. However, just as the kind of value we see in someone’s trying to do what she should but failing to do so is not the value bears on whether the subject should act in the ways that she does, Feldman offers no argument whatsoever for the claim that the kind of epistemic value that attaches to rational, false beliefs is the value that we ought to promote and thus ought to guide our belief formation. Moreover, we have an argument for denying that it is the sort of value that we ought to respond to by forming a belief about some matter. If we were to, say, form the false, but rational belief that we ought to Φ when the evidence indicates that we ought to Φ, insofar as we are rational, we will thereby be motivated to act in ways that we should not. By hypothesis, the kind of value that we can see our wrongful Φ-ing is not the sort of value that calls for action on our part. Thus, the kind of value that we can see in our mistaken belief that we ought to Φ is not a value that calls for forming the belief that we ought to Φ. To deny this is to deny (A2) and sever the connection between belief and motivation. So, I submit, this recent argument for Evidentialism rests on a mistake. The mistake is in thinking that the kind of value that attaches to our rationally held false beliefs is a value that calls for promotion by means of the mistaken belief.

The evident falsity of materialism

Kevin Timpe has just posted on his portion of the Plantinga/Tooley book (here). Plantinga claims that we can just 'see' that materialism is false:
The answer, I think, is that one can just see upon reflection that these things are impossible.... One can see that a physical object just can't do that sort of thing [i.e., think]. This isn't as clear, perhaps, as that a proposition can't be red; some impossibilities are more clearly impossible than others. But one can see it at least to some degree. And the same doesn't go for an immaterial thing's thinking; we certainly can't see that no immaterial thing can think (57f).

I don't buy it and here's the quick argument I've run over there:
(1) In general, inspecting the material parts does not put one in a position to see what could arise once the material parts are in place.
(2) As such, only people with special epistemic powers could see what Plantinga claims to see.

I think we get some support for (1) if we think about normative properties. If you cannot derive an 'ought' from an 'is', it seems that inspecting the 'is' properties will not put us in a position to appreciate what 'ought' to be. You can restrict (1) so as to exclude normative properties, but the point seems perfectly general and I can't think of any reason to accept (1) on its restricted reading. I suppose there's a question as to how to link (1) and (2). The implicit assumption is that if we ought to expect that we could not see that p is true on the hypothesis that it is, we ought to be sceptical of anyone's claims that they can just see that p is false. So, I guess we can infer (2) from (1) and demand more from those who reject materialism.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I think talk about Anglican traditionalists is profoundly hilarious, but maybe that's just me. I'm glad to see that they've lost another round.

In other news, Jesse Helms is dead and Hilary Bok has said all that needs to be said about that.

Just a tip. If you're in Austin, try to grab dinner at Ushi. Don't fear the polenta ice cream.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July!

I'll be heading to Austin to celebrate America's birthday. Well, I'll be heading to Austin on America's birthday. Blogging should resume when I return. In the meantime, you should head to Prosblogion for the discussion of the new Tooley/Plantinga book (here, here, and here.)

Enjoy.



If you like it straight, no Cher: