Thursday, June 25, 2009

Exciting morning!

Email message at 9:45:

Main Campus Only: There is an emergency on campus. Please shelter in the nearest building now. Do not go outside. Will update.

Update at 10:19:

Main Campus only: Gas leak @ Airline & Binkley Garage. Avoid SE area of campus please. More updates at 214 768 INFO.

Hope everyone is safe.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What a peach

Nixon on abortion:

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding, “Or a rape.” (hear)


We now know what "Hiking the Appalachian Trail" is a euphemism for (here). There's problems with some of the video feeds of Sanford's presser, but from what I gathered he's a home-wrecker who struck up a relationship with a married woman having marital problems of her own. After some earnest talk about God's laws and her kids, things went in a bad direction. My initial reaction is that he seems like a scumbag, but Josh Marshall is giving him points for fessing up (here).

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reasons as Facts or Propositions?

I've been re-reading Miller's "Motivation in Agents" along with Dancy's Practical Reality and I'm puzzled by a few things.

I think Dancy (2000: 131) is wrong to say that we can give a non-factive explanation of an agent's actions. While Dancy seems to think this is coherent, this strikes me as contradictory:

(1) Mustard’s reason for running down the hall was that the murderer was chasing him, but of course he was mistaken about that.

It doesn’t sound like a contradiction to say things like, ‘His reason for Φ-ing was that p, but of course he was mistaken about that because owing to self-deception he thought that his reason was q.’ Dancy’s suggestion, however, is that (1) could be true and it could provide us with a non-factive explanation (i.e., a successful explanation that lacks a true explanans) when it is not true that the murderer was chasing him, not when the agent has a mistaken belief about his own motivations. If (1) is contradictory, then it seems (2) could be true only if there was indeed a murderer chasing Mustard:

(2) Mustard’s reason for running down the hall was that the murderer was chasing him.

If it's part of the story, however, that Mustard was mistaken in thinking that the murderer is chasing him and (1) is false, then (2) is false.

If (2) is false, you might opt for the view that says that Mustard’s motivating reasons are either mental states or the contents of his states. Miller, seems to opt for this sort of view. According to Miller, "considerations such as she loves me or I ought to keep my promise could ... be among the kinds of considerations which might motivate me to act if I happened to believe them" (2009: 250). He raises this objection to the view that identifies motivating reasons with facts:
For unless we are infallible about what facts there are, there will be plenty of instances in which we invoke motivating reasons in our practical deliberation and yet at the same time are quite mistaken about the existence of the facts to which they make putative reference (2009: 229).

When Miller says above that motivating reasons are considerations which might motivate an agent to act, he's taking considerations to be propositions rather than facts. Sticking with Mustard, I take it that on Miller's view (2) could be true even if:

(3) No one was chasing Mustard.

Again, it seems (to me) that (1) is false. It also seems to me that (1) is entailed by (2) and (3). Doesn't Miller's view face pretty much the same problem that Dancy's view faces?

Bracketing this problem, I'm not entirely sure what Miller's objection in the passage above is supposed to show. Mustard is fallible. That's obvious. He believes he's being chased, but he's not. I take it that Miller thinks that Mustard's fallibility concerns matters of fact but he's not mistaken about what his motivating reasons are. (If Mustard were mistaken about both matters, there's no objection to treating reasons as facts in the passage above.) Why should we assume that Mustard's beliefs about his motivating reasons are true even when the beliefs that figure in practical deliberation are false? It doesn't seem to me that Mustard can say truthfully, 'My reason for running down the hall is that there's a murderer after me'?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Reasons and Time-Lags

Suppose you see your neighbor digging in his yard at night. You see that he's burying coffee cans. Why? You find out that he's stuffing the cans with cash. He figures that if the cash is buried in the yard, he won't be tempted to fritter it away and that way he will have money when he retires. So, it seems we might say that he did have a reason to bury those cans:

(1) His reason for digging in the garden to bury those cans is that he will have money in his retirement by so doing.

Suppose that someone's reason for A-ing can be either a fact about the future or some state of affairs that has not yet come to be as suggested by (1). Suppose that reasons explanations are factive. If we further insist that normative reasons have to be the sorts of things that could also be a motivating reason, it seems that there's a problem for views that identify motivating reasons with causal antecedents of actions. The problem is that there's a time-lag between the things that can give a causal explanation of the digging and the thing that could turn out to be identical to what (1) suggests is the thing that counts in favor of the digging. I don't know if anyone defends a combination of views that this would cause trouble for, but I thought it was interesting.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Just in the nick of time

There are reasons I'll miss SMU, but the presence of this twit and his think tank isn't one of them.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Motivating and normative reasons

I'm looking for good articles that contain actual arguments for the thesis that normative and motivating reasons are sometimes the same and thus deny Michael Smith's claim that normative and motivating reasons belong to different ontological categories. I've downloaded Dancy's, "Why there really is no such thing as the theory of motivation", Garrard and McNaughton's, "Mapping Moral Motivation", and Norman, "Practical Reasons and the Redundancy of Motives" in the hopes of finding something good. If you've got arguments +/or articles, let me know.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Evidence and Armchair Access (Revisited)

There's a tension between these two claims:

(Armchair Access): It is sometimes the case that: one’s evidence includes some
proposition E, and one knows from the armchair that one’s evidence includes E.
(Evidential Externalism): It’s possible that: A and B are internal twins and A
and B do not have the same evidence.

Suppose A knows p and a specific version of EE is true, E = K. If p is part of A's evidence, by AA, A is in a position to know from the armchair that p is part of A's evidence. If A knowss EE from the armchair, then A can deduce that p is true given just armchair knowledge. Thus, we have to deny AA, EE, or deny that these claims can be known from the armchair.

I don't know why this just dawned on me, but this just dawned on me. Suppose EE is false. Assume:

(Evidential Internalism): It’s impossible that: A and B are internal twins and A
and B do not have the same evidence.

Suppose someone tells A that she has been 'slow switched'. A knows that if this hypothesis is true, her evidence would be different than it would have been had she not been slow switched. A knows that she cannot tell from the armchair whether this is a hoax or not. So, A doesn't know from the armchair what her evidence is.

Suppose no one tells B that she has been slow switched. B reasons as follows. If I had been slow switched, I wouldn't know from the armchair what my evidence is. But, I do know from the armchair what my evidence is. Thus, I know from the armchair that I haven't been slow switched. But, that's absurd. If AA is false whether EE or EI is true, since EE or EI must be true, AA must be false.

I know there are details to tidy up, but this seems rightish.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Which sauce to use?

Little Tancredo

I've had a fascination with Tom Tancredo since first reading about him at Crooked Timber. (He was the guy who wanted walls built along our borders with Mexico and Canada (here).) He's one of the go to idiots when the networks need someone to say something bad about Sotomayor. If you're not a regular reader of Talking Points Memo, then you're probably missing out on some good stuff they've been posting lately about someone in Tancredo's employ. Marcus Epstein was one of Tancredo's speechwriters and is the executive director of Tacredo's Team America PAC. Epstein recently pleaded guilty to a hate crime and apparently won't be attending UVA Law (although his facebook page suggests that he hasn't come to accept this just yet). Stories of racist Republican underlings don't typically merit much coverage, but you're going to make news when you deliver a karate chop to a woman along with your racial slurs.