Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Epistemology at the Eastern

I'll be in NY in December for the Eastern where I'll be giving a version of my paper on truth and warranted assertion. Here she is:

Truth and Warranted Assertion

Here's a question related to matters addressed in this paper. Think about the Innocence Project. Here's a group that identifies people convicted of crimes that they did not commit and manages to get them released using evidence that was often unavailable at the time of conviction. The following strikes me as obvious. Upon discovering that some innocent person has been forced to do years of hard time, we discover that this person is owed a duty of reparation and that duty is owed even if there was no culpable wrong that led to their conviction. There are people who seem to think that the deontic properties of our actions are fixed by facts about the non-factive mental states of the agent, but I think cases like this show how wrong such a view is. With a little imagination we can imagine cases very similar to the actual cases where the people who are rightly released and compensated are guilty of the crimes they have been accused of and are owed no duty of reparation. There we go. The deontic properties of the acts are different in these two cases in the absence of any discernible difference in the mental states and evidence of the relevant agents until after the duty not to punish the innocent has been violated. Okay, so I'm sure there are the Rick Perrys out there who don't think that innocent people who have been forced to do two decades of hard time for crimes they didn't commit aren't owed anything, but I'm sure if I said that internalists were a pack of Perry-esqua whackaloons they'd say that I'm being unfair. Am I? I guess. Perry is probably consistent. What's the internalist story about why we have duties of reparation to those who are wrongfully imprisoned on the basis of good but misleading evidence by good but misled people?

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