Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The results are in!

Philosophers of Religion in Target Faculty
God: theism or atheism?
Accept or lean toward: theism 34 / 47 (72.3%)
Accept or lean toward: atheism 9 / 47 (19.1%)
Other 4 / 47 (8.5%)

All Respondents/Target Faculty
God: theism or atheism?
Accept or lean toward: atheism 678 / 931 (72.8%)
Accept or lean toward: theism 136 / 931 (14.6%)
Other 117 / 931 (12.5%)

There's some discussion of the numbers emerging over at Prosblogion.

Philosophers of Mind in Target Faculty
Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism?
Accept or lean toward: physicalism 117 / 191 (61.2%)
Accept or lean toward: non-physicalism 42 / 191 (21.9%)
Other 32 / 191 (16.7%)

All Respondents/Target Faculty
Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism?
Accept or lean toward: physicalism 526 / 931 (56.4%)
Accept or lean toward: non-physicalism 252 / 931 (27%)
Other 153 / 931 (16.4%)

Among the more interesting claims being floated is this one: just as theists go into philosophy of religion in order to defend theism, there are many atheists going into philosophy of mind in order to defend physicalism. I offered some suggestions as to why atheists/agnostics aren't going in to philosophy of religion. Unless people are converting rapidly, there's got to be some reason why it is. So far, I don't think I've hit upon any explanatory factors that have convinced anyone but (a) there has to be some explanation as to why this is (b) the explanation has to be partially contained in what I said because I covered just about all the possible explanations.

On the epistemology front:

Target Faculty/Epistemology
Epistemic justification: internalism or externalism?
Accept or lean toward: internalism 59 / 160 (36.8%)
Accept or lean toward: externalism 56 / 160 (35%)
Other 45 / 160 (28.1%)

Target Faculty/All Respondents
Epistemic justification: internalism or externalism?
Accept or lean toward: externalism 398 / 931 (42.7%)
Other 287 / 931 (30.8%)
Accept or lean toward: internalism 246 / 931 (26.4%)

Some move away from externalism about epistemic justification among the specialists, but the view is not without its defenders. This data is relevant to something I've had to contend with recently. In the paper I'm giving at the Eastern in a few weeks, I offer some examples that I used to elicit intuitions from undergraduates where I try to see whether they are internalists or externalists about moral permissibility. The intuitions suggest that the folk are externalists about the justification of action. (At the very least, they think you can generate reparative duties by bringing about bad effects when you couldn't have been expected to know that you would bring these effects about at the time of action.) I argue on theoretical grounds that you cannot accommodate these intuitions given the constraints imposed on you by internalism about the epistemic stuff.

Two responses to this. The first was that the undergrad responses are not a good guide to community standards. Here's a response:
* I could point to further data that suggests that community standards are externalist (e.g., Darley and Robinson's work (this is a good place to start) suggests that the dominant view in the community held by the folk is that the degree of punishment appropriate to an offense is partially determined by the effects of an action. When you have two subjects that are mental duplicates that bring about different effects, the community standard appears to be that the punishment appropriate for the agent that brought about the worse effects is greater than the punishment appropriate for the agent that brought about the lesser effects). That's more data, but it's the sort of data that one could offer without challenging the (empirical) claim that epistemic internalists won't share the intuitions I've tried to elicit and that Darley and Robinson have elicited (i.e., that there can be moral differences in the status of an action without mental differences that distinguish actors).

The second response to my argument was that epistemic internalists will simply not have the intuitions that these undergrads had. Three responses to that.
* First, the fact that they respond that way doesn't mean that the response is reasonable.
* Second, it's an empirical question as to whether they will react to that. (I can think of some prominent internalists who do _not_ react like that. Richard Feldman, for example, is a prominent an internalist and he rejects the view that you are morally justified in acting on your epistemically justified moral judgments precisely because he thinks that the consequences of an action (known or unknown) can bear on the permissibility of the action but can have no bearing on the epistemic standing of judgments about the deontic status of the action that brings those consequences about. Barbara Herman thinks that all moral evaluation is concerned with the quality of the agent's will and she tries to tell a Kantian story as to why we have what she thinks intuition suggests are duties of reparation to deal with the unforeseen consequences of our action. Theoretically, they are internalist but they have intuitions that appear to favor some externalist views.)
* Third, I think that, ceteris paribus, we want theories that are consistent with community standards that govern the application of normative terms. While a philosophical argument could correct these community standards, that would suggest that cateris isn't paribus, and one of the difficulties that such an argument would face is that it likely would have to be pinned down by intuition at some point. If those intuitions are unique to specialists with philosophical axes to grind, we should worry about theory contamination of intuition defeating their evidential significance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Most people still studying the heliocentrism/geocentrism debate are, perhaps, geocentrists... if all the heliocentrists have bored of the latest epicycle and moved on.

In completely unrelated news, Michael Bergmann will be giving a talk on "skeptical theism" as a response to the problem of evil when he visits. I hadn't thought much about that since I was an undergrad, so I read a few papers. People take that position seriously? Wow. Just wow.