Friday, August 28, 2009

How to refute mentalism

According to mentalism, if two subjects are in the same non-factive mental states, these subjects have the same evidence. Mentalism is attractive to those who like to say things like BIVs have the same evidence that we do, Neo has the same evidence we do, etc... That is to say, mentalism is attractive if you're mental and you think you have no more reason to believe that you have hands than a BIV does.

That's not the argument, that's the snarky comment. Here's the argument.

(1) Evidence is propositional, it either consists of propositions or facts.
(2) If you know p non-inferentially, p is included in your evidence (Immediate knowledge suffices for evidence a.k.a, 'IKSE').
(3) Evidence consists of truths (ET).
(4) We do know some propositions about the external world non-inferentially.

It follows from (1)-(4) that we have evidence that BIVs don't. Examples might include that this is a hand, that this looks like a hand, that this is not this (where 'this' and 'this' pick out something and something by perceptually), etc...

You can deny (2), but then you need to say something about what you take evidence to be. If evidence is what we have to go on in trying to settle some question or what we're entitled to reason from, I can't see how more than immediate knowledge could be necessary to get some proposition into your evidence.

As for (3), semantic intuitions seem to show that evidence ascriptions are factive. I'm bothered by the suggestion that there can be false propositions that constitute evidence. For me, the worry is brought out by this exchange:
Scarlet: Does the prosecution 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 containing details the police think only the killer could have known.

Now, consider a second:
Plum: How good is the prosecution’s evidence against Mustard?
Peacock: It seems that the evidence is pretty strong. However, Mustard’s prints are not on the murder weapon, his alibi checks out, and he was not the last one seen with the victim. This is all perfectly consistent with the evidence that the prosecution does have.

It seems as if Peacock’s assertion flatly contradicts Green’s assertion. But all that Peacock has done is assert that the falsity of certain propositions is consistent with other propositions about what the prosecution’s evidence consists of. So, unless we say that claims about what someone’s evidence consists of entail that those claims are true, it’s hard to see how Peacock’s assertion could contradict Green’s assertion. Peacock’s assertion speaks to the veracity of the prosecution’s claims rather than speaking directly about the evidence that they have.

As for (4), you can deny that but it seems to come with costs. First, it seems unlikely that we could have any knowledge of the external world without some non-inferential knowledge of the external world. Second, it seems that (4) is an odd thing to deny if you accept (2), (3), and (5):

(5) Perception is an autonomous source of reasons or justification or evidence.

I don't know what devout mentalists would deny, but I know that I'd rather deny mentalism than any of these. I recall from earlier Andy saying that Feldman prefers a version of modest foundationalism that seems to have the implication that our evidence consists of things like 'It seems to me that blah blah blah', but if the view is that our evidence is propositions about us rather than propositions about objects and, say, their appearance properties I'd want to know not why such propositions are in our evidence but why we'd have to say that only such propositions are in our evidence. My guess is that the answer will be something like intuition, mentalism requires saying stuff like that, or a denial of IKSE.

This and that

I'm interested in 'same on the inside' intuitions. Does 'being the same on the inside' as someone who acts permissibly mean that you also act permissibly in doing what you do? I tend to think not. Typically, I try to argue that 'being the same on the inside' as someone who acts permissibly doesn't mean that you act permissibly by focusing on cases where the subject in the good case acts with the best of intentions and brings about some bad effects but does so non-culpably. Here's a case for those who tend to have more internalist leanings. In the actual world, Billy is sticking pins in a voodoo doll to curse his rival. In the actual world, Billy is motivated by malice but his actions don't harm even the voodoo doll. Intuition: he acts permissibly when he sticks a pin in the doll. In some merely possible world, Gilly is Billy's mental duplicate and uses a voodoo doll to cripple his romantic rival. Both Billy and Gilly believe voodoo work, by the way. They both read in very similar books that it works. Intuition: he acts impermissibly when he sticks a pin in the doll. Call me crazy, I don't think you should cripple your romantic rivals. Call me crazy, I don't think it matters if you put pins in voodoo dolls.

Here's another point about things that reason's aren't.
Suppose you think that reasons are either psychological states or the contents of those states. Here's an argument that those who accept the second view use to argue against the first. The first view has the unfortunate implication that the attitudes that provide the premises for practical reasoning don't represent the reasons. That's bad. Here's an argument against the second view. We all know that what motivates us in the typical case are contingent features of the world, not necessary existents. It looks like only worldly states of affairs or facts will be reasons.

Miller might say that there are psychological enabling conditions that allows him to say that so and so has such and such reason depends upon contingent matters but it still seems that an implication of the reasons-are-propositions view is that the reasons you have are reasons there would have been even if your psychology had been radically different.

On an unrelated note, I need to read Analysis more often! It seems that WSA has an argument for consequentialism that looks a lot like the kinds of arguments I offer against consequentialism in the courses where we talk about these things.

Finally, I've finally fixed my ride (or, had my ride fixed). Picked up my bike with a new frame and equipped with brakes with real stopping power. Went for my first ride this morning. Great fun.

Also, found a credenza on Craigslist for $75! Pretty good day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gettier tweet

I just saw this tweet from Jonathan Ichikawa. "Anna-Sara thinks the Gettier judgment is inferential. I thought I was the only wierdo who thought that". Isn't Gettier included in that number or is he excluded on the grounds that he's not a weirdo?

I mean, you can have (putative) cases of JTB without K where the B is not formed via inference but I thought that Gettier's cases were cases of inferentially justified true belief that doesn't constitute knowledge. Am I wrong?

--John and Juan solved that mystery!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I'm shocked!

The guy who has been gouging you for years when you shopped at Whole Foods (a.k.a. Whole Paycheck) is opposed to health care reform! (Story here.)

I've long had a strong dislike/hate relationship with Whole Foods, so the boycott won't be too difficult. Remember, just because Mackey peddles dolphin stickers and patchouli, it doesn't mean he's groovy.

FB is right that Mackey isn't against every possible reform, he's against anything that I'd regard as meaningful reform. Since I assumed readers would take that as rather obvious, I'm not sure that the "intellectual dishonesty" remark sticks but it's been made so I've made the obvious obviouser.

As for the boycott, I don't think it's emoting and mindless to say that you won't financially support someone who uses your financial support to oppose your causes. FB must know quite a lot about the motivational structures and epistemic positions of people who won't shop at Whole Foods that I don't. He can read minds.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mine shafted

I've been thinking some about one of the discussions of mine shaft cases from RoME. In particular, I've been trying to make sense of the "second grade of immoral involvement". The suggestion was that in a certain version of a mine shaft case where the subject had calculated that the best option was A, forgot whether it was A or B, remembered that one of these would be disastrous, the 'good agent' might just do C knowing that either A or B is the right thing to do. That seems fine, I suppose, but what distinguishes the "first" from "second" grade of immoral involvement is that the agent knowingly chooses an option that is the option she shouldn't choose and seems not to be morally blameworthy for so doing. Or so the suggestion went.

The question I had went something like this. While some of us are willing to swallow the idea that the method that a morally responsible agent can diverge from the principles that determine whether the agent does what she should do or acts rightly, there's got to be some way to describe the psychology of the agent who does C because she knows that she doesn't know whether it is A or B that she should do but knows that it is either A or B that she should do.

Intuitively, it seems that the agent who follows the method knowing that it will lead her to do what she oughtn't is nevertheless rational and morally responsible for doing C. But, and here's the puzzle, it seems that she can't judge rationally:

(1) I should do C.

She can't because she also knows.

(2) It is either A or B that I should do but I don't know which and one of these is quite bad.

Obviously, you can't rationally believe:

(3) (1) & (2).

What about the intention to do C? I take it that the morally responsible agent intends to do C. Does she intend to do so rationally? It seems so, but then it looks like this is her psychology:

(4) I intend to do C but I should do A or B.

If that 'should' is the should of full practical rationality, I don't see how (4) could be a rational attitude since among the things the agent would seem to think if (4) is her attitude is:

(5) I intend to do C but I shouldn't, I should do something else.

That's weird because that seems as irrational as (3).

Thursday, August 6, 2009


The start of RoME is mere hours away and I'm in the first session. I'll be arguing that some reasons are facts or states of affairs and addressing two arguments for the view that normative reasons are either psychological states or the contents of those states. The plan is to record the thing on the laptop and post, but I have little confidence that this will work well.

It looks like there are tons of good talks, I'm really looking forward to everything after 2:15 this afternoon.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Flat on my back

We've been moving boxes and furniture, so I've been shirking my blogging obligations. Leave for RoME tomorrow morning, head to California a few days later, UTSA orientation the day after that.

Enjoy some Gang of Four with extra groovy pictures of the sun (?).

In news news, just received word that I'll be presenting "What Good is Justification?" at the Central APA.