Sunday, March 28, 2010

Disagreement and Defeat

Just some whataboutery. Here's a diagram:

A eating with B

C eating with D spying on A.

Let's suppose that C and D are spying on A. Initially, C doesn't see B. A is calculating the tip and C and D are watching her. C and D know that A is really good at math. They see that A has calculated 20% of the check correctly (they use a calculator to check her math (and theirs)) and know she believes that the tip is $12. I think it's safe for C to say to D:

(1) A knows that the tip is $12.

Now, D knows something A doesn't (yet). D knows that A is dining with B, one of A's epistemic peers. D knows that B has calculated tip and come up with an answer that differs from A's ($11). D tells C that B has an answer that differs from A's and so asks whether C would like to retract (1).

(i) I think, at this stage, C doesn't have to retract (1) or say (1) isn't true any longer.

D then informs C that B is about to reveal that B's answer differs from A's.

(ii) I think, at this stage, C doesn't have to retract (1) or say (1) isn't true any longer.

D then informs C that B has revealed that B's answer differs from A's but that this has no impact upon A's attitudes at all.

(iii) I think, at this stage, C doesn't have to retract (1) or say (1) isn't true any longer.

If (i)-(iii) are right, is this trouble for the equal-weighter? Maybe my intuitions are off, but I think (i)-(iii) are right and it's weird to think that this is right but then to add that A's justification is defeated by virtue of the revelation of a disagreeing peer. (Knowledge does, after all, entail justified belief and it's hard to see how the equal weighter could say that A's belief in this case could be justified post revelation.)

If equal weighters are supposed to deny (i), (ii), or (iii), which should they deny? I think you don't want to deny (i). I don't think it's a necessary condition on having knowledge based on calculation that you cannot have a peer that shares evidence that could come to a different answer. But, if you accept (i), why can't someone like A know that there could be peers out there and just react to the observation that there's an actual disagreeing peer rather than a merely possible one by shrugging her shoulders and saying that the tip is $12.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Domestic Terror?

If we apply the ELF standard (which seems to be that the intentional destruction of property (e.g., a car dealership) is an act of domestic terrorism if motivated by certain political ends), should recent right wing activity be classified as acts of domestic terrorism? Vandals threw bricks through the windows of the offices of various Democratic politicians (here) and someone tried to cut the gas lines to the home of Rep. Tom Perriello (here). These seem like pretty good candidates. I'm sure that representatives of the GOP and the Tea Party will condemn this after they get around to condemning those elements of the Tea Party that shouted racial slurs at elected officials and spat at them.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Defeating Phenomenal Conservatism

I've posted a draft of my paper on phenomenal conservatism. In it, I address Huemer's arguments for phenomenal conservatism, explain why phenomenal conservatives have to condone acts of cannibalism and terrorism, and then I save us from the cannibals, terrorists, and phenomenal conservatives.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Critical notice of _Living with Uncertainty_.

I've finished my critical notice of Michael Zimmerman's latest book, Living with Uncertainty. Because it is a critical notice, it is quite critical. I wanted to give notice that I think it's a fantastic book and should be read by anyone interested in moral obligation after they've finished his previous book on the subject.

Alright, here's the review:
Critical Notice of LwU.

I like some of the cases I've come up with in the critical notice. If you have any thoughts, please share.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Reasoning (!)

This seems like an important campaign in light of recent events in the UK and here:

4 Rs Campaign.

The idea is simple. Schools should be teaching kids how to reason well and so schools should have kids in logic and critical thinking courses before the philosophers get their hands on them in college. I don't know if there's any similar movement in the United States, but there should be. So, make it so.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

New stuff ------------->

I've posted two things that I thought I might as well make public. If you're looking for something to read, look right.

"Belief's Aim and its Justification" is an older piece where I argue that seemingly plausible claims about the ontology of practical reasons (of the normative kind) are in tension with plausible claims about the justification of belief.

"Mentalism and Skepticism" is a relatively newer piece where I argue that the mentalists are committed to external world skepticism.


Yes, Virginia, there is something seriously wrong with Bob McDonnell

I think there's no excuse for discriminating against homosexuals in hiring in private institutions, but there's really no excuse for ending a ban that protects homosexuals from discrimination in hiring in public institutions (here). This is just sickening. Don't homosexuals from Virginia have the same claims on state institutions that the rest of the citizens in Virginia have? Isn't this just the sort of obvious point you'd expect a Republican governor to get? It's worth remembering that Bob McDonnell is the guy the Republicans chose to represent them in responding to Obama's State of the Union Address. He's not nearly as fringe as he should be.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Socratic Robologues

This is amazing. Captures the essence of the dialogues and robots.

(Thanks, Lewis Powell!)

I hadn't realized that Lewis created this. Watch it all the way through, it's really quite funny.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Does anyone have a copy of the Kolodny and MacFarlane paper, "Ought: Between Subjective and Objective"? Could you shoot me a copy if you have one ( Thanks, whoever you turn out to be!

Thanks, [name redacted]!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Help, I need your intuitions!

What happens in cases where the agent knows that given her evidence the prospectively best option (i.e., the option that would maximize expectable value given the agent's evidence) will either be to give drug A or drug C, the prospectively worst option will either be to give drug A or drug C, and the second best option will be to give drug B? If she’s certain that drug B is second best and the effects of giving the wrong drug to the patient are dire enough, can the conscientious but innumerate moral agent say that she should just give the patient drug B rather than take the risk of responding improperly to the evidence she has?

To make this just a bit concrete, suppose our agent had been given drugs A and C by her professor. One kills, he said, but one cures. She’s given a quick quiz to test her knowledge of Bayes’ Theorem. If she gets the right answer, she gets both drugs and she’s told which one kills and which one cures. If she gets the wrong answer, she gets both drugs and she’s told a lie about which one kills and which one cures. She’s pretty sure she knows what Bayes’ Theorem is and she’s used it with some success in the past to determine the probability of some event. She also knows that she barely passed probability and statistics. She takes the quiz and now she faces a three-option case. The professor tells her that drug A cures and drug C kills. Given her evidence, I think that she could say quite reasonably that she ought to give drug B even if she knows that this is not the option that is prospectively best (the option that is prospectively best involves giving the drug that the teacher says cures if she got the right answer or the teacher says kills if she got the wrong answer. Alas, she's not at all certain that she got the right answer to the quiz, but she knows what evidence she had and that this evidence settles what the right answer is and thereby settles the question as to which option is prospectively best).

[Here’s the question on her quiz. 3% of the sprockets from Acme have been defective. 6% of the sprockets from Bloggs have been defective. 40% of the sprockets came from Acme. The remaining 60% of the sprockets in your factory came from Bloggs. A sprocket is randomly selected from a box of sprockets and found to be defective. What is the probability that it came from Bloggs?]