Monday, November 30, 2009

Is blind review blind?

I think that some sort of blind review in philosophy is the norm, but I think that blind review comes in different forms. Apart from AJP, I don't know of many journals that have blind referees and editors. Actually, I don't think I know that this is AJP's policy, but I seem to remember reading that this is their policy. (Full disclosure, I have fond feelings towards AJP because they've published my work, their editor writes you nice little notes thanking you for refereeing, and the editor will also return submissions to you within ten minutes of submission with a note that says 'I've spotted three typographical errors on the first page alone that you should fix them before resubmitting' (Ryan and I only found two after hours of searching, but I suspect that was all part of the fun.) There are always going to be problems with googly eyed referees trying to subvert the blind review process, but I'm really interested in the idea of blinding the editors today. (While I'm on the subject, don't referees know they know we know that they're looking? It's one of the reasons I take the opportunity to address referee's criticisms in posts here after I receive rejections. It's rare that you get the opportunity to stand up for your work when a referee criticizes it, but when you know that refs are checking in it's nice to be able to take the opportunity to explain why you think your work is more defensible than an unhappy referee suggests or say how you plan on fixing the paper to address the referee's criticisms. You can't make them accept your work or take back their criticism, but at the very least you hope they can respect the responses. (And, yes, fwiw, I know that some refs only look after the review is completed.))

I figured I'd post this because we might see the launch of an exciting new journal and the discussion has thus far has largely focused on open access and there's not been much discussion of the review process. I don't know who the editors for NIP will be apart from one and I have nothing but good things to say about this person. It seems that I'm not the only one who thinks that NIP could be a good model for other journals, but I'm less concerned about the open access stuff than I am about review practices. I've heard various rationales for having editors that know the identity of an author, but they seem weak. I've heard that it would be a hassle to blind the papers, but that seems unlikely if we're talking about journals that use online submissions. If TAs responsible for hundreds of students in intro classes can blind before grading, I have a hard time believing that editors can't look at a blinded version of a paper while deciding whether to send the paper out and which referee(s) to use. I've heard that the editors benefit from knowledge of the author's identity so they can use that knowledge to decide which referees will be appropriate for the paper. I don't know why we need to do this on the front end. Ask the referees whether they know the identity of the author and after the refereeing process is completed, the editor can then decide whether the referee's relationship to the author was problematic. I suspect that this will be rare. We all know the work of our friends and enemies rather well and I can't imagine that we'd deceive some editor by saying that we didn't know who authored a paper to help friends or harm enemies. I've heard that editors will use their knowledge of the author's talents and abilities to select referees, but isn't this precisely the sort of thing that should be discouraged? I've also heard in various blog threads that if you fall out of favor with an editor, you can expect to get bad treatment in the future. I've also heard that writing to the editor to address a referee's report will put you in bad standing with an editor. I don't know how much of this to believe, but if there is some truth to this, I think this is just another reason to blind editors. I don't like annoying people (but I'm sure someone near and dear to me will say that I love annoying people lately) and I can imagine that editors develop a dislike for authors who pester them, but I don't think this should affect how someone's work is handled by a journal. Going back to the grading example, if you have a particularly obnoxious student (it does happen sometimes, admit it) it's probably best that you try to blind student work before grading it. That just seems sort of obvious, so there must be some important difference between grading and the review process that I don't get. Throw in additional stuff about biases that are favorable to an author or unfavorable to an author, and it seems like there's a good case to be made for keeping editors blind. But, they aren't. Not to my knowledge, at least. I have to confess that my knowledge is quite limited.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wide-Scope: use sparingly or use something else?

Zimmerman (1996: 118) says that you shouldn't try to represent conditional obligation in terms of a material conditional where the 'ought' operator takes wide-scope. At first I thought I got it, but now I'm not so sure.

(1) You should vote Obama but if you don't you shouldn't vote at all.

Let A: Vote Obama.
Let B: Vote for no one.

Letting the arrow stand for the material conditional, the idea is that we model conditional obligation (e.g., (1)) as follows:

(2) O(~A --> B)

Here's the problem with that. Suppose O(A). O(A) entails O(AvB), which entails O(~A-->B).

Now, let C: Vote for Romney. Suppose O(A). O(A) entails O(AvC), which entails:

(3) O(~A-->C).

At first I thought that his problem with (2) was that (2) was too weak and that there's got to be more to conditional obligation than (2). That still seems right, but now I'm worried. I could be wrong, but doesn't (1) entail?

(4) O(A).

Doesn't (4) entail (2) and (3)? Doesn't it seem that (1) is incompatible with (3)?

I've been traveling all afternoon and evening, reading Zimmerman on the plane and then driving back to Austin from San Antonio. It is now 1:14 AM and I've just stepped in the door (can't sleep), so there's a non-zero chance that I'm just missing something obvious, but I can't tell whether the problem is that (2) is false or that it's just too weak. What do we have to give up to block the inference from (4) to (2)? He doesn't deny that O(A) entails O(AvB). (His solution to Ross' paradox is the one that I'd offer and it doesn't require denying that inference.)

Maybe the idea is that (1) is compatible with (2) and (3)? Maybe that's right, and maybe the problem is just that (2) is too weak to capture the conditional obligation stated in (1). (AvB) and (AvC) are logically equivalent to (~A --> B) and (~A --> C) respectively and to ~(~A & ~B) and ~(~A & ~C). Just as there's no deontically superior world accessible to this one where you neither A nor B on the assumption that the best accessible world is an A-world, there's no deontically superior world accessible to this one where you neither A nor C on the assumption that the best accssible world is an A-world.

So, maybe the idea is that (1)-(4) are all true and that's consistent with the denial of:

(5) You should vote Obama but if you don't you should vote for Romney.

Why not? If there's more to (1) than (2), then there's more to (5) than (3) and that extra stuff is what we can use to capture the intuition that there's something wrong with (3) that really is the intuition that (5) can't be true if (1) is.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

FAQ: Reasons as facts and factivity

Suppose you think reasons are facts. I'm thinking of normative or guiding reasons, not motivating or explanatory reasons. Consider the following objections:

On the assumption that reasons are facts, we can have no false reasons and we have no reasons for any of our false beliefs. Yet, we know both that we have (and have had) many false beliefs (e.g., that there can be justified false beliefs!). To say that there are no false, justified beliefs at face value is to accept the absurd consequence that none of the false beliefs we hold are held rationally, since they are not capable of any justification whatsoever. Further, since we often cannot tell with any certainty which of our beliefs are true (their being a certain degree of opacity to the matter) we must be sceptics about most, if not all, of our beliefs. Since we can’t be certain that they’re true, we can’t have any justification for them whatsoever, and further there’s no difference between being rational and being irrational (being epistemically responsible and irresponsible) so long as we’re mistaken.

It's true that if reasons are facts, there cannot be false reasons understood as normative reasons but that does not entail that we have no reasons for any of our false beliefs. This is a point familiar from Williamson. If E = K, what justifies must be true but it doesn't follow that what is justified must be true.

Of course, I do think that there are no false, justified beliefs. To the extent that a false belief is supported things we know to be true, it is capable of some degree of justification, but that's perfectly compatible with my claim that they will not be permissibly held/justified. Moreover, to say that there are no false, justified beliefs is _NOT_ to say that no false beliefs are held rationally. The reasonable and the rational and the responsible is often taken to be distinct from the permissible and the justified. Rationality is a necessary condition for certain kinds of excuses (including mistaken belief excuses for action), but excuses do not provide justification. Rational/reasonable response to reasons is not the same as the justified response.

Suppose we cannot tell with certainty which of our beliefs are true. Okay. Suppose certainty isn't needed for knowledge. If we identify justified beliefs with items of knowledge (as Sutton does), there can be no false, justified beliefs but we can have justified beliefs without certainty.

Also, the claim that there cannot be false, justified beliefs is not incompatible with the claim that there can be defeasibly justified beliefs. Suppose that we identify justified beliefs with items of knowledge. If knowledge can be had on defeasible grounds, the same goes for justified belief. Both, however, would be factive. Now, start subtracting conditions away from knowledge while holding the truth requirement for justified belief and you won't then end up with a view on which justifiably believing p requires indefeasible justification.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Regret, apology, wrongs, excuses, justifications, etc...

[Previous version of the post written while half asleep at 3 am, current version written while half awake at 9am. I think it's improved.]

Here is something epistemic norms might not be. They might not be the sorts of things we can be properly faulted for violating whenever we violate them. In a recent discussion of the norms of assertion, Lackey appears to deny this:
[T]here is an intimate connection between our assessment of asserters and our assessment of their assertions. In particular, asserters are in violation of a norm of assertion and thereby subject to criticism when their assertions are improper. An analogy with competitive basketball may make this point clear: suppose a player steps over the free throw line when making his foul shot. In such a case, there would be an intimate connection between our assessment of the player and our assessment of the free throw—we would, for instance, say that the player is subject to criticism for making an improper shot.

It is hard to imagine what could excuse a player’s failure to notice that she’s stepped over the line when taking a foul shot without bringing in evil demons, evil geniuses, evil hallucinations, etc… If this is supposed to be an argument for some sort of fault requirement on warranted assertion, I think it provides little support for:

Fault: If S’s assertion that p isn’t warranted, S can be faulted for asserting p.

First, even if it’s hard to imagine how someone can break the foul line rule without being at fault for doing this, this rule is hardly representative of the rules of basketball, the rules in competitive sports, or norms that govern our behavior. It is not difficult to find rules where there is not an intimate connection between the player and the play. Among the rules in an NBA referee’s book is one that says, “A player in control of a dribble who steps on or outside a boundary line, even though not touching the ball while on or outside that boundary line, shall not be allowed to return inbounds and continue his dribble. He may not even be the first player to touch the ball after he has re-established a position inbounds.” You don’t have to watch much basketball to know that someone can fail to do this without being subject to criticism for this failure. You cannot tell the referee that you had used the greatest skill to avoid stepping out of bounds unless you are hoping to get the referee to smile while (rightly) giving the ball to the opposing team. Second, there seems to be no a priori restriction on how rules of games are formulated. So even if there were no actual examples of rules from competitive sports that someone could faultlessly break or only examples of rules from competitive sports that someone that are broken only by those who can be faulted for so doing, I think the thing to say is that we get to make up whatever crazy rules we want for the games we invent. I don’t think we just get to make up the rules that govern assertion. You can’t uncover the norms of assertion by seeing which ones look most like the rules of basketball. (If only I were wrong on this point, I could use the referee’s rulebook to refute Fault.)

In a recent defense of a justified belief account of warranted assertion, Kvanvig says something that seems to support Fault:
This point should be self-evident … norms of assertion are norms governing a certain type of human activity, and thus relate to the speech act itself rather than the content of such an act. Notice that when we look at the four conditions for knowledge above [i.e., truth, belief, absence of defeaters, and justification], the only ones regarding which apology or regret for the speech act itself is appropriate are the belief and justification conditions. There is, therefore, a prima facie case that knowledge is not the norm of assertion, but rather justified belief is.

This isn’t self-evident, not to me at least. I can see someone saying that what you ought to apologize for is what you can be faulted for and what you can be faulted for is what you ought to apologize for. I can see someone saying that it doesn’t follow from the fact that you asserted something false that you ought to apologize. Having said that, I think this doesn’t support Fault because it doesn’t follow from the fact that you did something you shouldn’t have that you can be faulted and ought to apologize. Excusable wrongs are things that oughtn’t to have been done but it’s not obvious that we should apologize for committing them. Perhaps an explanation is in order, but that’s not the same thing. If I’m wrong on that point, it is self-evident that you can’t be faulted for doing that which you ought to be excused for doing. Either way, I don’t think intuitions about when apologies are in order are a particularly good guide to claims about when someone did something they shouldn’t have. Given that warranted is just a technical term for permitted, intuitions about apologies don’t seem to be a good guide to claims about warranted assertion.
It might help to consider the ‘serial’ view of defenses:
[I]t is best if we commit no wrongs. If we cannot but commit wrongs, it is best if we commit them with justification. Failing justification, it is best if we have an excuse. The worst case is the one in which we must cast doubt on our own responsibility. When I say ‘best’ and ‘worst’ here I mean best and worst for us: for the course of our own lives and for our integrity as people.

Just to be clear, a ‘wrong’ here is a pro tanto wrong, not something that is wrong all things considered. In this scheme, excuses are distinguished from justifications and denials of responsibility. In offering an excuse or in offering a justification, we seek to provide a rational explanation for the agent’s action. The difference between justifications and excuses is that when the former is available, there are reasons available that explain why there was a sufficient case for acting. The reasons for acting are sufficient even if there were reasons to do things differently. Often offering an excuse involves explaining how it could seem from the subject’s point of view that there was a sufficient case for acting when there was not. If we cannot show that there was an appearance of a sufficient case for acting that would convince a reasonable or responsible person to act, the excuse wouldn’t excuse. In offering an excuse we point to factors that show that a reasonable and responsible agent could have engaged in precisely the wrong that the agent did while in full awareness of those facts that the agent was cognizant of, and it is most unclear that when we can pull this off the agent has something to apologize for. Who could demand an apology from someone while acknowledging that the agent’s decision to act as she did was reasonable?

What about regret? Regret is a funny thing. An agent can act with justification but regret that there was no way to avoid committing some wrong even if the agent knows full well that the it would have been wrong to refrain. The regret is not the recognition that the agent should have done things differently. The justification didn’t fail. If we can regret doing what is right, it seems that the connection between regret and fault will be far from straightforward. It seems that in the passage above, Kvanvig is saying that intuitions about regret are going to cause trouble for KA. He must be thinking that we don’t regret or don’t properly regret bringing about some state of affairs we didn’t know at the time of acting we would bring about (e.g., we don’t regret asserting something false when we have good reason to think that it’s true, we don’t regret running down the kid when we couldn’t see the kid crossing the street, we don’t regret those romantic relationships that started well but drive us to jump off of a bridge, etc…). That’s far from obvious. If we regret acting against a defeated reason in acting rightly, we regret bringing about a bad state of affairs we did not know how to avoid and knew we could not avoid if we were to do the right thing. Why then should we assume that we cannot regret that we brought about some bad state of affairs that we did not know that we brought about? It can’t be that we don’t regret it because it was unavoidable. Not only can we avoid bringing about bad states of affairs that we don’t know we bring about when we act, we can regret that which we know was unavoidable. My intuitions might differ from his, but I think that Oedipus can rationally regret marrying his mother. I think prosecutors can rationally regret winning a conviction when the accused was innocent. I think I can rationally regret every accident I’ve every caused while driving even when I exercised due care in trying to avoid them. If regret is the mark of the wrong, there are wrongs without fault and wrongs we commit without awareness. Seems like a prima facie case against RA, not KA. We don’t need cases of factual ignorance to make this point. Take cases of reasonable moral disagreement where someone reasonably but mistakenly judges that they should resolve the disagreement in a particular way and then acts on that judgment. If they discover later that they acted on the weaker reason, there are grounds for regret. By hypothesis, however, the subject acted reasonably because they acted on a reasonable judgment about what to do.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Can't we leave Iraq alone already?

Wasn't this essentially W's policy?

All your epistemic views are belong to him

Good news! My theory of evidence survives what might be the coolest destructive argument in epistemology. See here. Warning: be prepared to kiss your favorite theory of knowledge and evidence goodbye. (I'm not bragging, by the way, my view gets off on a mere technicality. If interested, the view is defended here.)

This should cheer you up.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hot Ziggety!

I just received word that 'Evidence and Armchair Access' has been accepted by Synthese! Thanks to my referees for slogging through the drafts and picking it apart like kind and supportive vultures. I believe it has been vastly improved thanks to your efforts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tea partying nativists


UT vs. UCF

I went to my first UT game a few weeks ago and John (thanks John and Sherri!) sent me a link to this gigapan shot. Here's the blurb:

Gigapans are extremely large, high-resolution files created by digitally stitching, in these cases, hundreds of photographs together to form a complete whole. The process involves proprietary software, coupled with a robotic camera platform which measures, aligns, and moves a camera in precisely defined steps, and a viewing platform which allows for panning and zooming, all designed by GigaPan Systems.

Very cool. I still can't find us in this shot yet, but it's amazing/terrifying that the God's eye point of view is at most a decade away.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Running errands tonight, I heard an interview on some sort of public radio station tonight with Bobby Hackney, the bass and vocalist of Death, a now defunct (pre-?) punk band from Detroit. Waterloo had a copy of For the Whole World to See, and it's really, really good. There are copies to be had, here and you can read their story, here. It's a good story, warm the cockles of your heart it will. One of the reasons we've probably never heard of them is that the record executives who funded their recording sessions asked them to change their name to something more commercially viable and their answer was 'No'. That was that. Flash forward a few decades and Bobby's son starts hearing bootlegs of his dad's band at parties. They found the tapes, and the album is finally released.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Get yer peasoup!

I'm taking the fight to Pea Soup.

(RC, I've added a section to address your concern. The concern is legit and I think The View's prospects for dealing with it are not good.)

Normative Judgment: Short draft

Here's a short draft of a paper I've just written up:

Justified Normative Judgment.

It's short, so please give it a look.

[Update: I've updated it on 11.15.2009.]

Saturday, November 14, 2009

OIC and Justified Normative Judgment

I've been reading Zimmerman's, Living with Uncertainty and some remarks of his concerning the subject 'ought' inspired this.

Consider the view that obligations are rationally identifiable as such. If there's an obligation to act against one's own reasonable verdictive moral judgments (say, but doing what one rationally judges is worse than what one reasonably judges is best), it's not rationally identifiable as such. Consider a case where a subject reviews what she takes to be her options: A, B, and C and comes to judge correctly that:

(1) A is uniquely best and B is better than C. D (i.e., do nothing) is worst of all.

As a matter of fact, however, she cannot bring it about that A obtains. [In a vending machine, there's (A) a small child, (B) a small puppy, and (C), a small kitten. Agent has sufficient change to release any of these trapped critters, but the mechanism that would release the small child is broken.] So, if we assume that OIC, our subject is obliged to either bring it about that B or C. She knows B is better and that she could bring it about that either B obtains or C obtains. She reasonably but mistakenly believes that she could bring about A, B, or C.

Facts about what can be done are, well, facts. Facts like that don't directly affect what's reasonable to believe about what can be done, will be done, should be done, etc... So, suppose we identify reasonable judgment with justified judgment with permissible judgment.

(2) Agent judges reasonably/justifiably/permissibly that she should bring A about.

From (i) the principle that obligations are rationally identifiable as such and (ii) the observation that she cannot rationally identify any (alleged) obligation to bring it about that B obtains and refrain from trying to bring it about that A obtains, it seems to follow from (2) that:

(3) Agent's obligation cannot be to do other than A.

It follows from OIC that:

(4) Agent's obligation cannot be to do A.

What's Agent to do? You can say that A ought to act against A's judgment about what ought to be done, but this is just to give up the principle that obligations are rationally identifiable as such.

Now, consider (LINK)

Link: If you judge that you ought to A (and oughtn't refrain from so judging), you ought to A.

In other words, you gotta do what you (judge permissibly) you gotta do. It seems that the argument above suggests that the justification for normative judgment is sensitive to objective facts (e.g., facts about what can be done) or LINK is incompatible with OIC.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Never step into a different dish twice

If it works for Wittgenstein and Oliver Sacks, why not?

I have this friend who eats cheerios every morning for breakfast, alternates tuna/pbj for every lunch, and finishes that off with veggie tacos every night for dinner. There's nothing wrong with that, right? Eat some oranges to stave of scurvy, sure, but I can't think of a reason for this guy not to stick with this and use the brain for something better. Like, philosophy or online tetris.

(That online tetris is addicting. I'm hooked on two player battle tetris with the monster map.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Disjunctivism Draft

I've revised a paper I've written on epistemological disjunctivism: here.

* I defend the view that the reasons and evidence provided by veridical experience are better than those provided by hallucination.
* I defend the view that only beliefs in the good case are justified.
* I explain why these views do not require experiential disjunctivism and address McDowell's argument to the contrary.
* I use terribly unfair rhetoric having to do with the Innocence Project to beat up on internalists.

Comments and suggestions would be very much appreciated.

Poxes for both houses

I've been thinking about epistemological and experiential disjunctivism a lot lately, and I wanted to say some sketchy things about disjunctivism and infallibilism.

Some commentators (van Cleve, possibly but I need to check) think that McDowell is committed to a kind of infallibilism. Because McDowell says that the evidence someone has for her beliefs in the good case are better than what she would have in the bad on the grounds that only subjects in the good case have knowledge, some take him to be committed to the view that among the conditions necessary for knowledge is that the possession of evidence or reasons that the subject could have only in the good case. Because of this, some might take McDowell to be saying that it is impossible for the truth of a belief to be the only thing that distinguishes a good case of perceptual knowledge from the bad case. In turn, this suggests that his view is that a perceptual belief constitutes knowledge only if based on something that is incompatible with the falsity of that belief.

Does that mean that McDowell subscribes to the infallibilist view that S can know p only if S’s basis for believing p is incompatible with ~p? He might, but epistemological disjunctivism as such does not entail infallibilism. At least, I hope it doesn’t. Infallibilism leads to skepticism. It might not lead to a skepticism concerning perceptual knowledge, but it leads to skepticism concerning induction. (Actually, I think he denies this. But, well, c'mon!) If knowledge is possible only when we have infallible grounds for our beliefs, the external world skeptic might be wrong but I cannot see how the inductive skeptic could be.

Okay, so is McDowell committed to infallibilism? According to fallibilism:
(F) It is possible for a subject to know that p is the case on the basis of evidence or grounds that do not entail that p.

If fallibilism is true, subjects in the good and bad case could have just the same evidence or reasons for believing p, but one of these subjects will be mistaken in believing p. But, then it seems that the difference between the good and bad case will be ‘blankly external’ to the subjects in these cases. So, either there can be differences in epistemic standing that are blankly external to the subjects in the good and bad case or infallibilism is true and knowledge based on non-entailing grounds or evidence is impossible. If the former is true, we do not need experiential disjunctivism to understand how perceptual knowledge is possible. If the latter is true, we trade one skeptical problem for another.

A Response

While I am not entirely convinced that this response is sufficient (or necessary), McDowell could say this. One problem with the objection is that it assumes that p could be blankly external to the subject who knows p. Why would the truth of her belief be blankly external to her? Sure, you might say that the falsity of the mistaken subject’s belief is blankly external to her. Why can’t McDowell acknowledge this as a possibility and say that if someone is in the dark, there will be matters blankly external to her that explain why she believes p without knowing p? How much do you have to know to be ignorant?

From Epistemological to Experiential Disjunctivism
I take it that one of McDowell's arguments for experiential disjunctivism is contained in this passage:
The root idea is that one’s epistemic standing … cannot intelligibly be constituted, even in part, by matters blankly external to how it is with one subjectively. For how could such matters be other than beyond one’s ken? And how could matters beyond one’s ken make any difference to one’s epistemic standing?

If you endorse epistemological disjunctivism but think that experience embraces the same things in perception and hallucination, you end up having to say that facts blankly external to the subject are responsible for the superior epistemic standing of that subject’s beliefs in the good case when compared to the beliefs in the bad.

The response I offered on McDowell’s behalf earlier to the charge that his view led to a kind of infallibilism that came with skeptical consequences should work here if it worked earlier. The difference between the good case and bad will not be blankly external to the subject in the good case. Because she knows p, she knows something that rules out the possibility that she’s the one in the bad case. How could a fact known to her directly on the basis of observation be blankly external to her? How could it matter to her that the difference between her and someone else who is ignorant is a difference lost on the subject who is in the dark about a great many things? If McDowell insists that the difference between the good and bad case cannot be a difference that is blankly external to the subject in the bad case, it seems he is committed to the rather odd view that there is something available to the subject in the bad case that would allow her (in principle, perhaps) to work out her epistemic predicament. If he rests content with the much more modest principle that the difference between the good and bad case cannot be 'blankly external' to the subject in the good case, I guess I'd say that the truth isn't blankly external when you know the truth.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Scattered thoughts Fantl and McGrath on evidence and justification

I think the following view is right:

IKSE: p is part of S's evidence if S knows p non-inferentially.

Not only do I think that it's right, I think it's pretty harmless. If S knows p non-inferentially, S's belief that p is the case is non-inferentially justified. So, if we can show that IJSE is true, we can show that IKSE is true:

IJSE: If S's belief that p is non-inferentially justified, p is part of S's evidence.

It seems that IJSE is the sort of thing that Fantl and McGrath defend. They say:

(JKR) If p is knowledge-level justified for you, then p is epistemically eligible to be a reason you have for believing q, for any q.

In defense of (JKR), Fantl and McGrath say, “If your justification for a proposition is good enough for knowledge, then if it isn’t among your reasons for belief, it’s not for shortcomings in your epistemic position with respect to it.”

That seems right, but it gives rise to a worry (for me).
The Worry
If IJSE is true, anything we are non-inferentially justified in believing is part of our evidence. You can be non-inferentially justified in believing p when ~p. Thus, p can be part of your evidence even if ~p.

That's a worry because I think that only true propositions constitute evidence (here). One response is to deny that there can be false, non-inferentially justified beliefs. I think that's the right thing to say, but it seems we could distinguish between (IJSE) and the following:

(CIJSE) If p is a piece of evidence and S's belief that p is non-inferentially justified, p is part of S's evidence.

Whereas IJSE commits us to a claim about the possession of evidence and a claim about what constitutes evidence, a close principle (CIJSE) only tells us what it takes to take possession of a piece of evidence. It is, for that reason, weaker than IJSE. It also seems that Fantl and McGrath's motivation for (JKR) does not support anything stronger than (CIJSE). Someone who defended (CIJSE) could say that there are non-inferentially justified beliefs where the content of the belief does not constitute evidence. The proposition believed is not part of the subject's evidence, but this isn't due to some shortcoming in the subject's epistemic position.

If we opt for this line, it seems that we have to say that it can be permissible/proper to treat something that is not evidence as if it is evidence. That's not something I like, so I'm not entirely happy with a view that incorporates (CIJSE) without (IJSE). But, the worry is that if I go in for (IJSE), I can be forced to give up the truth requirement on evidence by those who have internalist intuitions about justification ascription (or go skeptical and say that the scope of non-inferentially justified beliefs is limited to a special class of propositions about us).

Maybe I can show that internalists are playing with fire. The dialectical situation is complicated, but the embarrassment for the externalist about evidence is that it seems they have to say that there's a gap between the (i) things that we can properly/reasonably treat as evidence and (ii) the things that are evidence. Maybe internalists have to recognize this gap as well. Consider:

(JE) If S's belief that e is part of S's evidence is justified, e is part of S's evidence.

I suspect that this claim is not one that the internalists can actually defend, but then we either all need to distinguish between the evidence a subject has and that which the subject can properly treat as her evidence or question the justification ascriptions that seem to be at the root of the problem here for externalists.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Experimental philosophers discover that the folk are likely enrolled in philosophy courses where they are surveyed by experimental philosophers

There's an interesting discussion over at Experimental Philosophy (here). The question is whether 'the folk' are objectivists and there's some interesting evidence that suggests that some folk are not. In the comments, Angel floats the possibility that the students in the course might not be immature moral agents. It seems there's something to that suggestion. I noted half-jokingly that if we were given surveys as undergrads (I'm only speaking of some students who went to Rhodes, not the students who took the actual surveys), our profs would discover that sleep-deprived, binge-drinking, prescription-drug abusing undergrads sometimes speak as relativists do when answering survey questions. I worry that such results tell us little about our friends and neighbors who aren't college students. I worry that they tell us little about our students' attitudes when not in phil class. Two worries. The students are a bad sample because they aren't morally mature. The students responses don't provide clean data because students will take relativism more seriously in the context of a philosophy course than they would if they were just reading the paper or watching the news. So, what's an experimental philosopher to do?

Williamson on Evidence and Truth

This is from The Philosophy of Philosophy:
Why is it bad for an assertion to be inconsistent with the evidence? A natural answer is: because then it is false. That answer assumes that evidence consists only of true propositions. For if an untrue proposition, p, is evidence, the proposition that p is untrue is true but inconsistent with the evidence.

That's an answer, but it seems there is an equally promising answer that does not assume that evidence consists only of true propositions. Someone might think that:

JE: If S's belief that p is justified, p is part of S's evidence.
R: If S's belief that p is justified, the processes that produced S's belief were reliable.

Whatever is justifiably believed is a part of our evidence and whatever is justifiably believed is likely to be true. This is because whatever is justifiably believed is the result of a reliable method of belief formation. Thus, if an assertion is inconsistent with the evidence, it is likely to be false. In a conversational context where one speaker asserts p and then both speakers discover that p is incompatible with what is justifiably believed by the other speaker, it is natural to retract p until additional reasons for believing p or for discounting the justification that supports believing ~p. We can explain why it is bad for an assertion to be inconsistent with the evidence without having to assume EST.

Adequate response? I want Williamson to be right, but I can't see what's wrong with this response.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Blog first, think later

and waste no time when the opportunity to attack Muslims presents itself:
I really do not think this most recent act of jihad can be allowed to pass without some comment here at W4. We should also not let pass the sheer cravenness of our Dear Leaders--at the highest level and in the media--in discussing it. I note that when I bring up Yahoo mail, the story doesn't even appear as a top story. Atlas says that Shepard Smith at first would not say the murderer's name--Malik Nadal Hasan--and more recently has been giving a platform to Hasan's cousin who informs us that...

you guessed it!

It's our fault. Yup. Hasan was "harassed." Oh. Well. That explains it.

According to The Messiah, this was an "outburst of violence." An outburst. You know, violence does that sometimes. It bursts out. Impersonally.

I envy her superpsychic abilities. It's the day after, and I still don't know what Hasan's intentions were.

A useful antidote.

Son of insane clown posse

Randall Terry is running around the middle of this.

From TPM
"Like a bad game of telephone, the crowd spread rumors without anyone having witnessed exactly what happened. Several people said the group had been arrested for praying. Others said the group was arrested for ripping up pages from the nearly 2,000-page health care bill. To show support for them, members of the crowd started ripping up their pages from the bill, which rally organizers had handed out for the purpose of reading them to members of Congress.

"Here's a piece of paper, I'm tearing it," one woman shouted as another joined in: "I tore a piece too!"

That woman later told the officers, "I know you guys are just doing your job but don't you hate your job?"

"I'm embarrassed," another woman told her friends.

"Read your history books," another woman shouted at the officers.

"Thugs from Chicago," a man shouted at police.

"Arrest Nancy Pelosi for treason. You're arresting the wrong people," another shouted."

The buttons scream socialist and extremist. The vest says terrorist.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Who doesn't love a tea party?

"The attitude we're facing right now is very hostile," Tea Party Patriot national organizer Jenny Beth Martin said on a conference call for regional leaders TPMDC sat in on Wednesday night. "The [members] don't even want to hear from us on these issues."

It's like they don't even want us to corner them in their offices while waving guns around and screaming in their faces that they are Nazis because they want to give the poor health insurance like Hitler did or something.


Tales from today's events can be found here.

Favorite juicy bit:
Without those official details, protesters in the crowd watching the arrests were furious. They shouted "Let them go!" and one man yelled at the police that "Martin Luther King" was being dishonored and shouted "Letter from Birmingham Jail!"

One woman told officers they were "shameful."

"This is America, this is not the Soviet Union," one woman said.

Like a bad game of telephone, the crowd spread rumors without anyone having witnessed exactly what happened. Several people said the group had been arrested for praying. Others said the group was arrested for ripping up pages from the nearly 2,000-page health care bill. To show support for them, members of the crowd started ripping up their pages from the bill, which rally organizers had handed out for the purpose of reading them to members of Congress.

"Here's a piece of paper, I'm tearing it," one woman shouted as another joined in: "I tore a piece too!"

That woman later told the officers, "I know you guys are just doing your job but don't you hate your job?"

"I'm embarrassed," another woman told her friends.

"Read your history books," another woman shouted at the officers.

"Thugs from Chicago," a man shouted at police.

"Arrest Nancy Pelosi for treason. You're arresting the wrong people," another shouted.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Packages & Posts

This isn't news to most of you, but if you're really, really impatient and can't wait for the Williamson collection to come out in the U.S., you can order it from Amazon UK (here). My copy has been "dispatched". The good folks at J Phil have sent me my 10 free copies of the August 2009 issue. It contains my response to Hawthorne and Stanley. Very exciting morning for me. I will celebrate tonight by splitting a bottle of wine with my houseplants.

I'll probably be posting a lot in the months to come as my life has taken a turn for the pathetic. My girlfriend selfishly applied for a Fulbright, won the Fulbright, and will be spending about a year in Iceland making work while eating rotten shark and singed sheep faces. (Are you reading this?) I've caught up with my 30 Rock episodes, so now I have plenty of time to blog and work on my cooking. There might also be some furniture building and biking.

As much as I enjoy making stew and editing papers ...

JB and E

The following seems to me to be a pretty good objection to the view that p is part of S's evidence if p is justifiably believed by S (JBJE).

Let 'p' = Verna is a vixen.
Let 'q' = Verna is a female fox.

Suppose that S believes q on the basis of inductive grounds, ig, and that ig are sufficient for justifiably believing q. I'm not a foxologist, so I don't know what ig would consist of. Describe whatever behavior you think makes it quite likely that Verna is a female fox. S deduces p from q and knows that p and q are logically equivalent. S thus knows that she ought to be equally confident in p and q. If she knows that q is justified for her and knows JBJE, by JBJE, she knows that ~q is inconsistent with her evidence. She thus could deduce that ~p is inconsistent with her evidence. According to JBJE, in acquiring ig, S thereby acquires the sort of evidence such that ~p and ~q are hypotheses inconsistent with S's evidence. Which is crazy, of course, because ~q and ~p are consistent with ig.

Why does this matter? Well, it doesn't. It does show that there's no problem in saying both that evidence consists of truths and that there can be justified beliefs where the propositions believed are not part of the subject's evidence. And that removes a major obstacle to defending the view that evidence consists of truths because it helps to show that it's no consequence of such a view that Gettier cases are impossible.

The possibility of Gettier cases

This passage from an old paper of Ernest Sosa's ("Propositional Knowledge", Phil Studies 1969):
THE received definition of knowledge (as true, evident belief) has recently been questioned by Edmund Gettier with an example whose principle is as follows. A proposition, p, is both evident to and accepted by someone S, who sees that its truth entails (would entail) (that either p is true or q is true). This last is thereby made evident to him, and he accepts it, but it happens to be true only because q is true, since p is in fact false. Hence, inasmuch as he has no evidence for the proposition q, S can hardly be said to know (that either p is true or q is true). Here then is a formula for true, evident beliefs that are not cases of knowledge.

I'm revising a paper on Gettier cases right now. I'm addressing some of Williamson's critics who think that he has to say that Gettier cases are impossible because he thinks that evidence consists of truths (known to us). The criticism assumes that any p justifiably believed is included in the subject's evidence. (Without this assumption, the objection fails.) I could be wrong, but it seems that Sosa is assuming precisely the opposite of what W's critics are assuming. According to Sosa, Gettier assumes that our evidence consists only of truths and the mere fact that p is justifiably believed does not suffice for p's inclusion in a subject's evidence (since, after all, we have a case of justified belief in a false proposition).

Any literature on the evidence and truth stuff worth looking at? In particular, I'm interested in discussions of Gettier's cases where authors either say that G assumes that E doesn't require T or describe the cases in a way that shows that they are assuming that E does require T.

[In responding to Richard's question, I saw that I made a mistake in reading Sosa as saying that there's no evidence for the disjunction when he's saying that there's no evidence for the disjunct. Sorry, I'm tired. Still, keep sending in suggestions for pieces on truth, evidence, and Gettier.]

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

4/15 vs. 9/11

To be fair, I might fear the IRS more than any terrorist organization if I never left Winston-Salem.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Evidence: Doxastic or Non-Doxastic?

I haven't given much thought to the question as to whether it is the content of experience or belief that should be our focus in describing the evidence a subject has.

The following seems like a decent principle, the sort of thing that we should be able to accept prior to determining whether to go for a doxastic account or non-doxastic account:

BEBT: If you believe p to be part of your evidence, you believe p to be true.

While that strikes me as a plausible principle (about the evidence you have, not necessarily the evidence there is), it seems to cause trouble for the non-doxastic accounts of evidence.

Let p = there's a dagger before me.

Maybe I don't expect p to be true but I have an experience indistinguishable from one in which I perceive that there's a dagger before me. It seems weird to think that I could say/think rationally/correctly that part of my evidence is that there's a dagger before me, but I don't think there's a dagger before me. It doesn't seem weird to say/think rationally/correctly that I'm having the sort of experience that represents things as if there's a dagger before me but wonder whether there's really a dagger before me.

Maybe BEBT isn't true. Seems true to me. Seems to cause trouble for non-doxastic accounts of evidence.

* Maybe those who identify a subject's evidence with contents of experience can say that the evidence is defeated when the subject believes the experience not to be veridical, but that's not the case I'm imagining. Mine is a case of suspension, not denial.

*Maybe those who identify a subject's evidence with the contents of experience can say that the evidence is possessed only when believed. Okay, but then it's not much different than the doxastic view since possession requires belief and experience.

*Maybe those who identify a subject's evidence with the contents of experience can say that the p's that are our evidence are p's you cannot suspend judgment on when you have the right sort of experience. Maybe when I have the experience of the sort I'm imagining, I can suspend judgment wrt the proposition that there's a dagger before me but not that it appears as if there's a dagger before me. I don't like this move. Even if you think that the content of experience is limited to appearance properties and excludes properties like the property of being a dagger, say, this doesn't report the ascription of sensible qualities or properties to some demonstrable object. It describes how things are with me introspectively and I don't think it's plausible to think that our evidence is limited to these sorts of propositions about how things stand with us as revealed by introspection. Sometimes they include propositions like: that is orange, round, etc... where I can clearly doubt that there's an external object that is picked out because I can wonder whether I'm hallucinating.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Knowledge, Evidence, and Knowledge of Evidence

Nico Silins is responsible for the objections. (I'm responsible for any mistakes in presenting his objections.) It seems that we have a kind of unproblematic access to our evidence. Since our evidence is what we have to go on in forming a view without needing any prior reasons for starting here, perhaps we can say this:

AA: If p is part of my evidence, it is possible to know that p is part of my evidence from the armchair.

(1) Suppose we know E=K is true from the armchair.
(2) Suppose p is known to us by means of observation, but not from the armchair.
(3) p is part of our evidence [(1), (2)].
(4) If p is part of our evidence, we can know (3) from the armchair and without observation [AA].
(5) We know (3) from the armchair and without observation [(3), (4)].
(6) We know from the armchair that if (5) is true, p can be known from the armchair [E=K]
(7) We can know p from the armchair [(5)(6)]

But, (7) can't be right. (7) is incompatible with (2). Either knowledge is limited to armchair knowledge (i.e., the external world skeptic wins) or E=K is false.

Second and related objection (again, from Silins). Consider the transition from 'I know p' to 'I know p is part of my evidence', which is sanctioned by E=K and AA. Consider the further inference to 'My belief that p constitutes knowledge' from 'p is part of my evidence', which is licensed by E=K. It seems that I know that if my belief constitutes knowledge, it is not a Gettiered belief. Can I deduce from what is known when I know p is part of my evidence that my belief is not Gettiered? I doubt it.

Or, of course, AA is false. I think AA isn't quite right. The thing for Williamson to say (I think) is that access to evidence requires that the evidence is there to be accessed and given what evidence is, there's no reason to think that it can be accessed from the armchair. If the intuitive motivation for AA is just this: our evidence is what we have to go on in forming a view without needing any prior reasons for starting here rather than with something more basic, it seems to assume that we need something more basic than observational knowledge to serve as the start of our inquiry. But, what could justify that? Nothing promising comes to mind.

While I think that this is an initially promising response, there's an easy way to reinstate Silins' objection. Instead of AA, why not say this instead:

We need no more empirical knowledge to know that p is part of my evidence (when it is) than I need to know p

That seems to be the sort of thing that is congenial to W's view, but it also seems to allow me to reinstate a version of the second objection to W's account.

So far as I can tell, Silins' objections to W apply to my account of evidence only if we assume the principle of armchair access:

(ET) p is part of my evidence only if p.
(IKSE) If p is known non-inferentially to me, p is part of my evidence.

So, if I'm right and AA is false but the principle in bold is acceptable, (ET & IKSE) avoids a real difficulty that arises for E=K.