Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Is the moratorium over?

I've been checking either PPR or Nous to see if something is still being reviewed and saw that the notice of moratorium has been removed. Are the floodgates open again?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Austin's music scene






We're the first stars. On Mars. Chartreuse kangaroos.



Your tax dollars at work. Mars rover.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More ugliness from the right

A friend directed my attention to this.

Fwiw, I don't think I'd laugh at a video of a Klansmen who set himself on fire. It's amazing that the same wackaloons that go nuts over Bruno and the corrupt souls who find that funny don't bat an eye when someone in their flock tries to find humor in a video showing insurgents killed in an explosion.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On the blankly external

I'm thoroughly enjoying Disjunctivism: Perception, Action, and Knowledge. (I only have it through early October via interlibrary loan, so if someone is looking to get someone something for a birthday that someone is having on 9.20... Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more ...)

I started with Neta's article and haven't finished it yet. I wanted to take a moment to comment on a passage from McDowell. In offering an epistemological rationale for disjunctivism, he writes:

The root idea is that one's epistemic standing on some question 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? ... When someone has a fact made manifest to him, the obtaining of this fact contributes to his epistemic standing on the question. But the obtaining of the fact is precisely not blankly external to his subjectivity, as it would be if the truth about that were exhausted by the highest common factor


I take it that part of the idea here is that veridical perception is supposed to put us in a better epistemic position than a corresponding hallucination would. As Neta notes, the only explanation McDowell sees as to why this is would have to be something that made for a subjective difference.

Some will respond to McDowell's argument like this. There's no subjective difference between hallucination and experience of the sort that contribute to the subject's epistemic standing on the situation and so you aren't better off epistemically having a genuine experience rather than a hallucinatory one. Not, that is, if you're thinking about justification. If you're thinking about knowledge, that's a different matter.

I think there's a middle ground view here. Yes, you'll have better epistemic standing with experience than hallucination. No, that's not because there's a subjective difference. Or, more carefully, this difference in resultant status does not require a subjective difference. Thus, you can't argue from 'no subjective difference' to 'no difference in epistemic standing'. Here's why.

While reasons _for_ may well need to be present to the mind to improve one's epistemic standing, there's little reason to think that reasons _against_ need to be present to the mind to affect epistemic standing negatively. A reason to or for cannot justify unless it figures in deliberation to guide the subject's deliberations but a reason against need not figure in deliberation or guide deliberation to get its normative work done. (Reasons against get their work done by making wrong whereas reasons for get their work done by justifying.) If that's right, we could say that the advantage you get with experience is the absence of a reason against that you get whenever you hallucinate. Since reasons against needn't be present to the mind to get their work done, we can explain the resultant difference that McDowell is after without having to go all McDowellian and posit some subjective difference most of us don't believe in.

What do Newt and I have in common?

Neither of us has had the chance to meet Allison Vivas face to face. (Just to be clear, this isn't an aspiration of mine.)

What distinguishes us? Newt's 527 awarded Vivas its "Entrepreneur of the Year" award and invited her to an "intimate event" (their words) with Newt. Story here. I don't think I have a 527.

In case you were wondering who Allison Vivas is, she's the president of an adult entertainment studio. In case you were wondering why Newt's group chose her to receive this award and wondering how he had her contact information to send her his gavel, that's what we have in common. Newt must know the answer. He's said that it was sent to Vivas by accident but he hasn't explained why he has the addresses of a known pornographer in his Rolodex.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Evidence, knowledge, seemings, and all that

Scarlet: Does the prosecution have solid evidence against Mustard?
Green: Here's the evidence they have against him: namely, that he was the last one to see the victim alive, that he lied about his whereabouts on the night of the crime, that his fingerprints were on the murder weapon, and that he wrote a letter containing details the police think only the killer could have known. Of course, I don't know if he's the last one who saw the victim alive, I don't know if he lied, I don't know if his fingerprints were on the murder weapon, and I don't know if he wrote a letter containing any details about the crime.

It seems to me that Green's remarks are contradictory in either the way that contradictions are or the way that Moore Paradoxical assertions are. If E requires K, I take it that Green is saying that the prosecution knows p, q, and r but that he does not know p, q, and r. If E requires T, I take it that Green is, in effect, asserting that p, q, and r are true but that he does not know this. If, however, A needn't know p or be right about p for p to be part of A's evidence, I can't see why it seems contradictory in the way that contradictions or Moorean absurd assertions are for B to say A's evidence includes p but she (i.e., B) doesn't know that p. Since K entails T, I think this is a decent argument for the claim that whatever else a proposition must be to included in someone's evidence, the proposition must be true.

Contrast the above with this:
Scarlet: Why does the prosecution believe Mustard did it?
Green: It seemed to them that he was the last one to see the victim alive, that he lied about his whereabouts on the night of the crime, that his fingerprints were on the murder weapon, and that he wrote a letter containing details the police think only the killer could have known. Of course, I don't know if he's the last one who saw the victim alive, I don't know if he lied, I don't know if his fingerprints were on the murder weapon, and I don't know if he wrote a letter containing any details about the crime.

That doesn't seem odd in the least. Moral of the story?

If it seems to S that p, it doesn't follow that p is part of S's evidence. It may be that S's evidence includes a related proposition; namely, the proposition that it seems to S as if p, or it seems that p, or something like that. But, _that_ proposition about seemings, appearances, etc... will be part of S's evidence only if it is true (if the above is right). Moreover, I think there's some reason to think that our evidence will not be limited to such seemings or appearances of a kind that would save mentalism.

Why? Take all the true seemingsy and appearancy propositions that would be true if instead of perceiving what you perceive you were a BIV. This will be a proper subset of the propositions that are part of the content of experience since, after all, your experiences would not be wholly veridical if you were a BIV. Is there any good reason to limit your evidence to those propositions that would be true only if you were a BIV? Only if there's a good reason to think that the propositional content of experience can justify belief only if they are the sort of propositions you can know to be true via introspection. I doubt there's any such reason.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Author of Dow 36000 to head Bush's Think Tank

Pony up!

Brainy commentary can be found here.

Further snark (from someone brainy) can be found here.

Further thoughts on mentalism

I spent part of the afternoon reading an article that Andrew Cullison recommended, Feldman's, "Foundational Beliefs and Empirical Possibilities". It's an interesting read, in part, because it gives me a better sense of Feldman's views about justification and experience. I've been arguing that the mentalist view about evidence (i.e., that two subjects will have the same evidence if these subjects are in the same non-factive mental states) is wrong on something like these grounds.

1. p is part of S's evidence only if p.
2. p is part of S's evidence if p is known to S non-inferentially.
3. p can be known to S non-inferentially even if p is a contingent proposition about the external world.

I don't want now to debate 1-3. I wanted to comment on something from FB and EP. Feldman thinks that an argument of Pryor's shows that it's a mistake to say that our basic beliefs have to be beliefs about the character of our present experience. Some foundational beliefs (i.e., non-inferentially justified beliefs) can be beliefs about the external world. Pryor's argument can be stated as follows:

The Cognitive Scientists’ Discovery Argument
1. If traditional foundationalism is true, then S knows that there is a
tree in front of him only if S believes that he is having a ‘‘treeish’’
experience.
2. Cognitive science could (in principle) show that S does not believe
that he is having a treeish experience without thereby showing that S
does not know that there is a tree in front of him.
3. S could know that there is a tree in front of him without believing
that he is having a treesish experience. (2)
4. So, traditional foundationalism is not true. (1), (3)

At first, I thought that we could run a similar sort of argument against any view that seeks to undercut my argument against mentalism by saying that our evidence will consist of propositions about, say, the character of one's present experience while conceding that one has non-inferentially justified beliefs about matters 'beyond' present experience. The view would say that our evidence might consist of propositions about having a treeish experience but the beliefs we form about trees do not depend either psychologically or epistemically upon beliefs about experience. Here it is:

The Cognitive Scientists’ Next Discovery Argument
1. If the kind of mentalist foundationalism I'm considering is correct, then S knows that there is a tree in front of him only on the basis of propositions about the present character of experience where that has to do about things appearing "treeish" rather than propositions about trees (or any other contingent proposition about the external world that could be false if, say, I had been a BIV undergoing an indistinguishable experience).
2. Cognitive science could (in principle) show that S does not believe
on this basis.
3. S could know that there is a tree in front of him without believing
on this basis. (2)
4. So, the kind of mentalist foundationalism I'm imagining is not true. (1), (3)

I like this argument, but there's an easier one isn't there? Forget cognitive science and imaginary discoveries. The contents of our experiences _are_ such that our experiences needn't be veridical if we were BIV's. Those contents are among the bits of evidence that go towards justifying our beliefs about the external world. So, unless evidence can consist of falsehoods, we have evidence that our BIV twins do not. So, mentalism is false. It now looks like mentalism either has to (i) deny that E entails T, as it were or (ii) say that our experiences would be veridical even if we were BIV's. Check? Mate?

Again into that fray

Following links from Leiter and The Philosophy Smoker, I read this piece by Lou Marinoff explaining how their department ran their search. I think it's good for people to see how the sausage is made and so I'm glad that Marinoff gave us an inside look into the process. In describing his strategy for eliminating applications, he writes:

How did we prune our field from 637 to 27? An important selection criterion was holding a Ph.D. from a good university. Members of our department earned their Ph.D.s at Columbia, Harvard, Oxford, and University of London. Additionally, City College is known as the “Harvard of the Proletariat,” with distinguished alumni that include nine Nobel Laureates, more than any other public institution in America. Our faculty members are expected to live up to this legacy.

This was the ad:

36. THE CITY COLLEGE OF THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK, NEW YORK. The City College of New York seeks an assistant professor of philosophy, tenure-track, beginning fall semester, 2009. Candidates must have PhD by time of appointment. AOS: Open. AOC: Open. The City College of New York is an EO/AAE employer. Send complete dossier including letter of application, three letters of recommendation, CV and a brief essay length writing sample to: Prof. Lou Marinoff, Chair, Search Committee, Dept. of Philosophy, The City College of New York, 137th Street at Convent Avenue, New York, NY 10031. Preliminary interviews at the APA Eastern Division Meetings. Deadline for applications: December 1, 2008. (179)

Better ad:

36. THE CITY COLLEGE OF THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK, NEW YORK. The Harvard of the Proletariat seeks an assistant professor of philosophy, tenure-track, beginning fall semester, 2009. Candidates must have PhD by time of appointment from somewhere that makes us look good if we hire you. AOS: Open. AOC: Open. The City College of New York is an EO/AAE employer. Send complete dossier including letter of application, three letters of recommendation, CV and a brief essay length writing sample to: Prof. Lou Marinoff, Chair, Search Committee, Dept. of Philosophy, The City College of New York, 137th Street at Convent Avenue, New York, NY 10031. Preliminary interviews at the APA Eastern Division Meetings. Deadline for applications: December 1, 2008. (179)


Knowing the market, I doubt that the hire didn't deserve that sort of post. There's a glut of good candidates. (You could, for example, pitch all applicants from women and minorities and still find a satisfactory candidate but that's hardly a justification!)

If you screen candidates on the basis of pedigree, you probably won't regret who you end up hiring. I take it, however, that applicants have some claim on receiving something like fair consideration from search committees and I don't think that you get that when the search committee knows or should know that there are many better ways to screen candidates (e.g., on the basis of the publications listed on the CV) but chooses to go with something like pedigree because they like making trophy hires.

**
I've been hit by the Philosophy Smoker! A couple of additional thoughts.

I agree with Mr. 0 that the claim that pedigree is a good indication of something other than pedigree is an empirical one. I suppose that it is also an empirical question whether past research performance is a good predictor of future research productivity. My guess is that you'll do a better job determining what sort of philosopher someone will be by looking at their CV than by looking at the application they put together as undergraduates to get into graduate school. I don't think that can seriously be debated. You might say that graduate school weeds out bad applicants, and that's right, but I still think the information available on a CV is a better way to judge talent than noting that someone who could put together a good application for graduate school didn't get weeded out by the program. Of course, the choice between using pedigree or using publications isn't forced. There are oodles of better ways of picking candidates than eliminating all those candidates that don't come from good programs and then using research or teaching to pick through the remains.

If pedigree is going to be used at all (not something I'm against, depending upon how it is done), it isn't obvious to me that you should look at overall department ranking rather than department standing within the candidates AOS.

Some salt to take if you are going to use pedigree. It may well be that the best that the best departments have to offer are better than the best that weaker departments have to offer. That might be a law. Suppose it is. If you don't think you can land and hold the best from the best, it seems rather irrational to pick on the basis of pedigree since it is probably often true that the best candidate from a weaker department (where I'm guessing strength of department is determined by a department's overall ranking on the Leiter Report) is better than the weaker graduates of strong departments.

Candidates who have nothing on their CV (no pubs and no good conference papers, say) might have come from programs that discourage publishing and presenting at conferences. That's unfortunate. That doesn't change the fact that they are going to be playing catch up when it comes to getting their research profiles in shape.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

OIC & APQ

The new APQ is out (see here). I have not managed to get access to it yet, but it contains my paper, "'Ought', 'Can', and Practical Reasons". In it, I address some recent arguments for 'ought' implies 'can', arguments that try to establish OIC on the basis of some claims about reasons for action that I think aren't true.

I'm really itching to get a look at René van Woudenberg's paper, "Ignorance and Force: Two Excusing Conditions for False Beliefs". Here's the abstract:

Ever since at least Aristotle, it has been widely recognized that a theory of responsibility must allow for the fact that in certain conditions agents are excused for not doing what they ought to do (or for doing what they ought not to do)—and accordingly that they cannot be held responsible (and so, blamed) for what they did not, or did, do. In such conditions they are not appropriate candidates for one of what Strawson has called the "reactive attitudes" such as resentment, contempt, gratitude, and affection. Let us call such conditions excusing conditions. The main aim of this paper is to show that the very same conditions that can excuse agents for not doing what they ought to do (or for doing what they ought not to do), also can excuse them for having false beliefs. As an afterthought it is suggested that this is a reason for thinking that humans can sometimes be held responsible (and so, blamed) for what they believe.

As I'm one of the few and the proud that thinks that false beliefs can be excusably held but never justified, I'm interested to see whether this is a line that van Woudenberg takes.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dear catastrophe waiter

After a lengthy debate today about whether to use 'waiter' exclusively or also to use 'waitress', nothing was resolved. I think we agreed that we'll have to resort to throwing things.

In other matters, I wanted to apologize for not responding to some excellent comments to previous threads. I didn't have access to the internet for much of the weekend and spent all of Sunday building a bookcase. It turned out rather well, I think. It's 7 feet long and a bit over 4' in height. It hasn't collapsed and the shelves haven't buckled under the weight. There was very little planning that went into it apart from measuring the space it was to occupy and deciding that 7x5 would look weird and 7x3 would be impractical. A woman at Wendy's offered to buy it off of the back of the truck. I think I've found a new way to moonlight.

Let me clarify something from the mentalism post. I think I should have said something different. First, I think that if you are going to reject scepticism, it's better to say that some propositions about the external world can be known directly and without inference. Second, what worries me about mentalism is that if someone accepts ET, mentalism, and thinks that we can have non-inferential knowledge of the external world they can do so only if they reject the claim that non-inferential knowledge suffices for a proposition's inclusion in someone's evidence. Not only does that seem bad, but it seems you can't say that there are pieces of evidence that we have as a result of perception beyond those that we have on the basis of introspection. But, it seems that perception ought to give us reasons and pieces of evidence that introspection cannot.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me seventeen times, shame on you and me.

Bureaucracy, bah!