Volume 18 (2018)

    Against Utopianism: Noncompliance and Multiple Agents

    David Enoch

    September 2018, vol. 18, no. 16, pp. 1-20

    Does it count against a normative theory in political philosophy that it is in some important sense infeasible, that its prescriptions are unlikely to be complied with? Though a positive answer seems plausible, it has proved hard to defend against the claim (most forcefully made by David Estlund) that this is not how normative theories work - noncompliance shows a problem with the noncomplying agents, not with the normative theory. I think that this line of thought - this defense of Utopianism - wins the battle but loses the war. It’s right about what does and what does not refute a normative theory. It’s wrong in misidentifying the problem. The right way to think about the feasibility worry is as essentially involving multiple agents, and how expected noncompliance by one agent may refute a normative claim addressed at another. Thus understood, feasibility problems may very well refute a theory in political philosophy. In this paper I develop this understanding of the feasibility worry, tie it to more general discussions in normative ethics (about the morally right way to take into account expected violations by others), and in political philosophy (about ideal and non-ideal theory; a long appendix engages that debate in detail).

    Reflection Principles and the Liar in Context

    Julien Murzi and Lorenzo Rossi

    August 2018, vol. 18, no. 15, pp. 1-18

    Contextualist approaches to the Liar Paradox postulate the occurrence of a context shift in the course of the Liar reasoning. In particular, according to the contextualist proposal advanced by Charles Parsons (1974) and Michael Glanzberg (2001, 2004), the Liar sentence L (asserting that L does not express a true proposition) doesn’t express a true proposition in the initial context of reasoning c, but expresses a true one in a new, richer context c', where more propositions are available for expression. On the further assumption that Liar sentences involve propositional quantifiers whose domains may vary with context, the Liar reasoning is blocked. But why should context shift? We argue that the paradox involves principles of contextualist reflection that explain, by analogy with well-known reflection principles for arithmetic, why context must shift from c to c' in the course of the Liar reasoning. This provides a diagnosis of the Liar Paradox—one that equally applies to two revenge arguments against contextualist approaches, one recently advanced by Andrew Bacon (2015), the other mentioned by Charles Parsons (1974) and more recently revived by Cory Juhl (1997).

    Anticipating Failure and Avoiding It

    Robert Steel

    July 2018, vol. 18, no. 14, pp. 1-28

    I argue for a conciliationist treatment of peer disagreement, on the grounds that the evidence that non-conciliatory theorists point to--the evidence that conciliatory-friendly independence principles would rule out--bears a troubling relation to accuracy. Namely, we can anticipate that trying to respond to it is a bad deal with respect to our expected accuracy. I consequently argue that we shouldn't try to respond to it. Instead we should ignore it, and be conciliationists.

    Generics, Conservativity, and Kind-Subordination

    Bernhard Nickel

    June 2018, vol. 18, no. 13, pp. 1-18

    Many approaches to the semantics of generic sentences posit an unpronounced quantifier gen. However, while overt quantifiers are conservative, gen does not seem to be. A quantifier Q is conservative iff instances of the following schemas are equivalent: Q As are F and Q As are As that are F. All ravens are black is obviously equivalent to All ravens are ravens that are black, yet ravens are black is not equivalent to ravens are ravens that are black. This may cast doubt on theviability of quantificational analyses of generics. This paper proposes a theory of why such “conservativity” generics are problematic that is compatible with the conservativity of gen and also accounts for perennially troublesome examples such as books are paperbacks and bees are workers.

    Epistemology from an Evaluativist Perspective

    Hartry Field

    June 2018, vol. 18, no. 12, pp. 1-23

    The paper presents a kind of normative anti-realist view of epistemology, in the same ballpark as recent versions of expressivism. But the primary focus of the paper is less on this meta-epistemological view itself than on how it should affect ground-level issues in epistemology: for instance, how it should deal with certain forms of skepticism, and how it allows for fundamental revision in epistemic practices (deductive, inductive and perceptual). It is hoped that these methodological consequences will seem attractive independent of the normative anti-realism. Indeed, some normative realists seem to embrace the view on skepticism, but it is argued that their position is unstable: the realism undermines the methodology. The general theme of the paper is that the issue of normative realism is deeply entwined with issues of methodology, in strong contrast to the common claim that meta-epistemological views in the tradition of expressivism have no first order impact.

    Rational Credence Through Reasoning

    Sinan Dogramaci

    May 2018, vol. 18, no. 11, pp. 1-25

    Whereas Bayesians have proposed norms such as probabilism, which requires immediate and permanent certainty in all logical truths, I propose a framework on which credences, including credences in logical truths, are rational because they are based on reasoning that follows plausible rules for the adoption of credences. I argue that my proposed framework has many virtues. In particular, it resolves the problem of logical omniscience.

    Foundations and Philosophy

    Dimitris Tsementzis and Hans Halvorson

    May 2018, vol. 18, no. 10, pp. 1-15

    The Univalent Foundations of mathematics take the point of view that all of mathematics can be encoded in terms of spatial notions like "point" and "path". We will argue that this new point of view has important implications for philosophy, and especially for those parts of analytic philosophy that take set theory and first-order logic as their benchmark of rigor. To do so, we will explore the connection between foundations and philosophy, outline what is distinctive about the logic of the Univalent Foundations, and then describe new philosophical theses one can express in terms of this new logic.

    On Classical Motion

    C. D. McCoy

    April 2018, vol. 18, no. 09, pp. 1-19

    The impetus theory of motion states that to be in motion is to have a non-zero velocity. The at-at theory of motion states that to be in motion is to be at different places at different times, which in classical physics is naturally understood as the reduction of velocities to position developments. I first defend the at-at theory against the criticism raised by Arntzenius that it renders determinism impossible. I then develop a novel impetus theory of motion that reduces positions to velocity developments. As this impetus theory of motion is by construction a mirror image of the at-at theory of motion, I claim that the two theories of motion are in fact epistemically on par --- despite the unfamiliar metaphysical picture of the world furnished by the impetus version.

    Epistemic Norms and Epistemic Accountability

    Antti Kauppinen

    April 2018, vol. 18, no. 08, pp. 1-16

    Everyone agrees that not all norms that govern belief and assertion are epistemic. But not enough attention has been paid to distinguishing epistemic norms from others. Norms in general differ from merely evaluative standards in virtue of the fact that it is fitting to hold subjects accountable for violating them, provided they lack an excuse. Different kinds of norm are most readily distinguished by their distinctive mode of accountability. My thesis is roughly that a norm is epistemic if and only if its violation makes it fitting to reduce epistemic trust in the subject, even if there is no doubt about their sincerity, honesty, or other moral virtues. That is, violations of epistemic norms don’t merit resentment or other forms of blame, but rather (other things being equal) deduction of credibility points in internal scorekeeping and related attitudinal and behavioral changes. As Fricker’s work on epistemic injustice shows, such distrust is undesirable from the point of view of an epistemic agent. Consequently, when one manifests epistemic distrust towards a subject in suitable circumstances, it amounts a way of holding her accountable. Since this form of accountability involves no opprobrium, there is good reason to think it is not linked to voluntary control in the same way as moral accountability. Finally, I make use of this account of what makes epistemic norms distinctive to point out some faulty diagnostics in debates about norms of assertion. My aim is not to defend any substantive view, however, but only to offer tools for identifying the right kind of evidence for epistemic norms.

    Kant, Grounding, and Things in Themselves

    Joe Stratmann

    February 2018, vol. 18, no. 07, pp. 1-21

    One of the central issues dividing proponents of metaphysical interpretations of transcendental idealism concerns Kant’s views on the distinctness of things in themselves and appearances. Proponents of metaphysical one-object interpretations claim that things in themselves and appearances are related by some kind(s) of one-object grounding relation(s), through which the grounding and grounded relata are different aspects of the same object. Proponents of metaphysical two-object interpretations, by contrast, claim that things in themselves and appearances are related by some kind(s) of two-object grounding relation(s), through which the grounding and grounded relata involve distinct objects. By way of investigating Kant’s overarching account of grounding, I will argue that the most plausible metaphysical interpretation of transcendental idealism is one on which we can know that there are things in themselves grounding appearances, but not which specific kind(s) of one- or two-object grounding relation(s) obtain(s) between them. Our ignorance of things in themselves therefore extends to their distinctness from appearances — pace both metaphysical one-object interpretations and metaphysical two-object interpretations.

    Abortion, Ultrasound, and Moral Persuasion

    Regina Rini

    February 2018, vol. 18, no. 06, pp. 1-20

    We ought to treat others’ moral views with respect, even when we disagree. But what does that mean? This paper articulates a moral obligation to make ourselves open to sincere moral persuasion by others. Doing so allows us to participate in valuable relationships of reciprocal respect for agency. Yet this proposal can sound tritely agreeable. To explore its full implications, the paper applies the general obligation to one of the most challenging topics of moral disagreement: the morality of abortion. I consider and reject arguments that abortion decisions have special features exempting them from the obligation to be open to moral persuasion. Further, I argue that viewing fetal ultrasound images can accomplish morally persuasion. Accordingly, in at least some cases a woman seeking abortion has an obligation to view fetal ultrasound images as a means of being open to moral persuasion. However, this conclusion does not support recent laws compelling women seeking abortion to view ultrasound images; such laws are in fact incompatible with the respect for agency that underwrites the obligation to be open to persuasion.

    A Minimal Characterization of Indeterminacy

    David E. Taylor

    February 2018, vol. 18, no. 05, pp. 1-25

    The current literature on indeterminacy centers around two (related) projects. One concerns the logic of indeterminacy; the other concerns its nature or source. The aim of this paper is to introduce, motivate and go some way toward addressing a new, third project: that of providing what I call a minimal characterization (MC) of indeterminacy. An MC, to a first approximation, is a relatively pre-theoretical characterization of indeterminacy that is neutral between the various substantive theories of the nature and logic of indeterminacy. An MC thus captures a generic sense of indeterminacy that, at least in principle, is recognized by all parties to the debate over the phenomenon’s underlying nature and logic. I begin by introducing the concept of an MC and outlining some of the main theoretical virtues of providing an MC. I then establish some desiderata on a suitable MC, and use these desiderata to rule out various initially attractive proposals. In the final part of the paper I sketch the beginnings of my own MC and defend it against objections.

    Kant on Strict Right

    Ben Laurence

    February 2018, vol. 18, no. 04, pp. 1-22

    For Kant right and ethics are two formally distinct departments of a single morality of reason and freedom. Unlike ethics, right involves an authorization to coerce, and this coercion serves as a pathological incentive. I argue that for Kant the distinctive character of right flows from the fact that juridical obligation has a different relational structure than ethical obligation. I argue that this relational structure explains the connection of right to coercion, and also explains how a categorical imperative can be known a priori to issue in both a pathological and non-pathological incentive. Thus the justification of coercion and its special role as incentive are rooted in the relational character of juridical obligations, and so ultimately in categorical imperatives of reason. Since this pathological incentive has a moral basis in the structure of juridical obligations, and so ultimately in a representation of moral laws, I argue that Kant’s discussion of the juridical incentive of coercion is more continuous with his main discussion of moral incentives in the Critique of Practical Reason than it might at first appear. I illustrate the consequences of this reading by discussing the propensity to injustice, as Kant understands it, and the unique way in which the juridical incentive undermines it.

    Gruesome Freedom: The Moral Limits of Non-Constraint

    John Lawless

    February 2018, vol. 18, no. 03, pp. 1-19

    Many philosophers conceive of freedom as non-interference. Such conceptions unify two core commitments. First, they associate freedom with non-constraint. And second, they take seriously a distinction between the interpersonal and the non-personal. As a result, they focus our attention exclusively (or at least, disproportionately) on constraints attributable to other people’s choices – that is, on interference. I argue that these commitments manifest two distinct concerns: first, for a wide range of options; and second, for other people’s respect. However, construing freedom as non-interference unifies these concerns in a way that does justice to neither. In particular, it focuses our attention on phenomena that are at best tangential, and at worst hostile, to our interest in respect. If we wish to preserve the distinctive significance of the interpersonal, we would be better served by a conception of freedom that focuses immediately on what I call "the social conditions of respect."

    Exploring a New Argument for Synchronic Chance

    Katrina Elliott

    January 2018, vol. 18, no. 02, pp. 1-18

    A synchronic probability is the probability at a time that an outcome occurs at that very time. Common sense invokes synchronic probabilities with values between 0 and 1 (e.g., the probability right now that the top card of this deck is presently the ace of spades is 1/52), as do scientific theories such as classical statistical mechanics. Recently, philosophers have argued about whether any synchronic probabilities are best interpreted as objective chances. I add to this debate an underappreciated reason we might have to believe in synchronic chance; it might turn out that the best interpretation of our common sense and scientific theories is one in which the macrophysical properties of physical systems are partly determined by synchronic chance distributions over microphysical properties of those systems. Additionally, I argue against the common charge that synchronic probability fails to satisfy various platitudes about chance—most notably Lewis’s (1986) Principal Principle.

    I Ought, Therefore I Can Obey

    Peter B. M. Vranas

    January 2018, vol. 18, no. 01, pp. 1-36

    According to typical ought-implies-can principles, if you have an obligation to vaccinate me tomorrow, then you can vaccinate me tomorrow. Such principles are uninformative about conditional obligations: what if you only have an obligation to vaccinate me tomorrow if you synthesize a vaccine today? Then maybe you cannot vaccinate me tomorrow (e.g., because you cannot synthesize a vaccine); what you can do instead, I propose, is make it the case that the conditional obligation is not violated (i.e., that you do not both synthesize a vaccine today and fail to vaccinate me tomorrow). More generally, I propose the ought-implies-can-obey principle: an agent has an obligation only at times at which the agent can obey the obligation (i.e., can make it the case that the obligation is not violated). I also propose another principle, which captures the idea that ‘ought’ implies ‘can avoid’. I defend both principles mainly by arguing that they help explain why agents lose (i.e., stop having) obligations, including conditional ones.