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.

6 comments:

Chris Tucker said...

I haven't read the paper, but I have a couple questions based on how I'm guessing your argument will go. (If you already address these worries or they simply aren't relevant to the argument that you actually give, just tell me to read your paper.)

First, why do you pick on phenomenal conservatism? Won't some intuitionisms that reject PC also allow someone to have justification for bizarre claims, such as the claim that cannibalism is morally obligatory? Also, suppose we reject PC and then endorse this claim: if it seems that P and you have good reason to believe that your seemings are reliable, then you have justification (in the absence of defeaters) for P. Won't this again allow one to have justification that cannibalism is morally obligatory? So if this is a problem for PC, isn't it a problem for lots of views?

Second, is the cannibalism problem just another way of pressing the great pumpkin objection?

Clayton said...

Hey Chris,

I guess I'm picking on phenomenal conservatism, in part, because I thought it would be interesting to do two things. First, to address Huemer's self-defeat argument for that view. Second, to look at whether a certain model for justification that seems plausible for perception works is as plausible for other kinds of beliefs. One model people seem to like for justified perceptual belief is one on which appears p justifies belief that p until something else comes along to defeat that. On this view, there's little that constrains what can end up justifying. In the moral case, people have independent views about what could end up being justified and that's why I think the model just sketched is problematic when applied to moral belief.

You are right that the problems might arise for lots of views, not just phenomenal conservatism. I'm happy if they apply to other views in the neighborhood. I'm not sure if it's a problem for all kinds of intuitionism, and this is important. Audi's intuitionism doesn't run into the problems that Huemer's does because what Audi says (whether he intends this or not) allows him to say that apparent principles don't justify beliefs, only genuine principles do. There's some further stuff about when genuine principles justify our beliefs that make reference to appearances, but that's a different matter.

I'm not sure if the cannibalism worry is just another way of pressing the GPO. That's because I'm not sure how the GPO is supposed to work, exactly. I think that the issues are probably different. At least, my way of dealing with cannibals is to distinguish between the access requirements on (non-idle) reasons. Pros only justify when we have access to them, but cons get their work done whether we take account of them or not. Gnomic, but you'll see what I'm getting at in the paper. I don't think anything like this is helpful with GPO.

Anonymous said...

Your zodiac year is the dragon; anyone who disagrees with you is just jealous.

Ambrose said...

I've read the paper and I have a quick question. We often ascribe justification to beliefs we take to be false or unjustified; in such cases, I'd say we use an act-object distinction. Believing versus what is believed. We think the person is justified in believing that p even though p (or the belief that p) isn't justified. Why not say the same about the terrorists? They're justified in targeting innocents, even though targeting innocents is not justified. That is, we ascribe justification to *their* doing of some action A even though we think A is not justified. On this view, we endorse JJ, which merely implies that the terrorists are justified in doing as they think they should, but we deny that what they do is right or permissible. Does the paper address this kind of objection?

Clayton Littlejohn said...

Hi Ambrose,

Good question about the act/object distinction. It doesn't come up very often, but that's a shame.

I didn't address this sort of objection here, but discuss the general issue elsewhere. There's a lot of controversy about how these j-ascriptions are related. There's (i) justification for a prospective course of action/belief, (ii) there's the justification of the particular action or belief, and (iii) there's justification for the agent.

On one view, the difference between (i) and (ii) has to do with the reasons for which one acts/believes. (ii) is just (i) plus proper basing. Then (ii) and (iii) are identified. On this model, (i) is a necessary condition for (ii) and (iii) and that would block the sort of move you wanted to make.

That's not the view that I'd endorse. I actually think that (ii) and (iii) are distinct and think (as you might be suggesting) that (iii) doesn't require (i). Then there's the question as to what (iii) comes to. I think it has to do with blame, responsibility, etc. I'd resist appealing to the sort of distinction you mention in this case because I don't think the baddies come out well on either dimension of evaluation. If someone acts in factual ignorance and accidentally poisons someone, then I might say that they were justified in what they did even though their actions weren't justified. I wouldn't say the same thing about the terrorists, cannibals, neo-cons because I think they should be blamed for their deeds and don't see why we'd say that their doing of something was both justified and blameworthy.

The connections between these various ascriptions isn't something I discuss in detail in the paper, but do in the book in a way that you might find congenial for some cases but probably not others. Email me if you want to take a look.

Clayton Littlejohn said...

Hi Ambrose,

Good question about the act/object distinction. It doesn't come up very often, but that's a shame.

I didn't address this sort of objection here, but discuss the general issue elsewhere. There's a lot of controversy about how these j-ascriptions are related. There's (i) justification for a prospective course of action/belief, (ii) there's the justification of the particular action or belief, and (iii) there's justification for the agent.

On one view, the difference between (i) and (ii) has to do with the reasons for which one acts/believes. (ii) is just (i) plus proper basing. Then (ii) and (iii) are identified. On this model, (i) is a necessary condition for (ii) and (iii) and that would block the sort of move you wanted to make.

That's not the view that I'd endorse. I actually think that (ii) and (iii) are distinct and think (as you might be suggesting) that (iii) doesn't require (i). Then there's the question as to what (iii) comes to. I think it has to do with blame, responsibility, etc. I'd resist appealing to the sort of distinction you mention in this case because I don't think the baddies come out well on either dimension of evaluation. If someone acts in factual ignorance and accidentally poisons someone, then I might say that they were justified in what they did even though their actions weren't justified. I wouldn't say the same thing about the terrorists, cannibals, neo-cons because I think they should be blamed for their deeds and don't see why we'd say that their doing of something was both justified and blameworthy.

The connections between these various ascriptions isn't something I discuss in detail in the paper, but do in the book in a way that you might find congenial for some cases but probably not others. Email me if you want to take a look.