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How To Be A Reliabilist

In this paper, I aim to develop a novel virtue reliabilist account of justified belief, which incorporates insights from both process reliabilism and extant versions of virtue reliabilism. Like extant virtue reliabilist accounts of justified belief, the proposed view takes it that justified belief is a kind of competent performance and that competent performances require reliable agent abilities. However, unlike extant versions of virtue reliabilism, the view takes abilities to essentially involve reliable processes. In this way, the proposed view should take a leaf from process reliabilism. Finally, I will provide reason to believe that the view compares favourably with both extant versions of virtue reliabilism and process reliabilism. In particular, I will show that in taking abilities to essentially involve reliable processes, the view has an edge over extant versions of virtue reliabilism. Moreover, I will argue that the proposed view can either solve or defuse a number of classical problems of process reliabilism, including the new evil demon problem, the problem of clairvoyant cases and the generality problem.

Against Radical Quantum Ontologies

Some theories of quantum mechanical phenomena endorse wave function realism, according to which the physical space we inhabit is very different from the physical space we appear to inhabit. In this paper I explore an argument against wave function realism that appeals to a type of simplicity that, although often overlooked, plays a crucial role in scientific theory choice. The type of simplicity in question is simplicity of fit between the way a theory says the world is and the way the world appears to be. This argument can be understood as one way of spelling out the so-called “incredulous stare objection” that is sometimes leveled against surprising metaphysical theories.

There Is No Pure Empirical Reasoning

The justificatory force of empirical reasoning always depends upon the existence of some synthetic, a priori justification. The reasoner must begin with justified, substantive constraints on both the prior probability of the conclusion and certain conditional probabilities; otherwise, all possible degrees of belief in the conclusion are left open given the premises. Such constraints cannot in general be empirically justified, on pain of infinite regress. Nor does subjective Bayesianism offer a way out for the empiricist. Despite often-cited convergence theorems, subjective Bayesians cannot hold that any empirical hypothesis is ever objectively justified in the relevant sense. Rationalism is thus the only alternative to an implausible skepticism.

Grounding the Unreal

The scientific successes of the last 400 years strongly suggest a picture on which our scientific theories exhibit a layered structure of dependence and determination. Economics is dependent on and determined by psychology; psychology in its turn is, plausibly, dependent on and determined by biology; and so it goes. It is tempting to explain this layered structure of dependence and determination among our theories by appeal to a corresponding layered structure of dependence and determination among the entities putatively treated by those theories. In this paper, I argue that we can resist this temptation: we can explain the sense in which, e.g., the biological truths are dependent on and determined by chemical truths without appealing to properly biological or chemical entities. This opens the door to a view on which, though there are more truths than just the purely physical truths, there are no entities, states, or properties other than the purely physical entities, states, and properties. I argue that some familiar strategies to explicate the idea of a layered structure of theories by appeal to reduction, ground, and truthmaking encounter difficulties. I then show how these difficulties point the way to a more satisfactory treatment which appeals to something very close to the notion of ground. Finally, I show how this treatment provides a theoretical setting in which we might fruitfully frame debates about which entities there really are.

The Reasoning View and Defeasible Practical Reasoning

According to the Reasoning View about normative reasons, facts about normative reasons for action can be understood in terms of facts about the norms of practical reasoning. I argue that this view is subject to an overlooked class of counterexamples, familiar from debates about Subjectivist theories of normative reasons. Strikingly, the standard strategy Subjectivists have used to respond to this problem cannot be adapted to the Reasoning View. I think there is a solution to this problem, however. I argue that the norms of practical reasoning, like the norms of theoretical reasoning, are characteristically defeasible, in a sense I make precise. Recognizing this property of those norms makes space for a solution to the problem. The resulting view is in a way analogous to the familiar defeasibility theory of knowledge, but it avoids a standard objection to that theory.

‘Ought Implies Can’: Not So Pragmatic After All

Those who want to deny the ‘ought implies can’ principle often turn to weakened views to explain ‘ought implies can’ phenomena. The two most common versions of such views are (a) that ‘ought’ presupposes ‘can’, and (b) that ‘ought’ conversationally implicates ‘can’. This paper will reject both views, and in doing so, present a case against any pragmatic view of ‘ought implies can’. Unlike much of the literature, I won't rely on counterexamples, but instead will argue that each of these views fails on its own terms. ‘Ought’ and ‘can’ do not obey the negation test for presupposition, and they do not obey the calculability or the cancelability tests for conversational implicature. I diagnose these failures as partly a result of the importance of the contrapositive of ‘ought implies can’. I end with a final argument emphasizing the role the principle plays in moral thinking, and the fact that no pragmatic account can do it justice.

Lies, Harm, And Practical Interests

This paper outlines an account of the ethics of lying, which accommodates two main ideas about lying. The first of these, Anti-Deceptionalism, is the view that lying does not necessarily involve intentions to deceive. The second, Anti-Absolutism, is the view that lying is not always morally wrong. It is argued that lying is not wrong in itself, but rather the wrong in lying is explained by different factors in different cases. In some cases such factors may include deceptive intentions on the part of the liar. In other cases, where such intentions are not found, the wrong in lying may be explained by other factors. Moreover, it is argued that the interaction between considerations against lying and considerations against telling the truth are sensitive to the practical interests of those lied to. When the topic of the lie in question matters little to the victim's rational decision making, the threshold for when considerations against telling the truth can outweigh considerations against lying are lowered. This account is seen to explain why lying to avoid little harm is sometimes permissible, and sometimes not.

The Defeasibility of Knowledge-How

Reductive intellectualists (e.g., Stanley & Williamson 2001; Stanley 2011a; 2011b; Brogaard 2008; 2009; 2011) hold that knowledge-how is a kind of knowledge-that. If this thesis is correct, then we should expect the defeasibility conditions for knowledge-how and knowledge-that to be uniform—viz., that the mechanisms of epistemic defeat which undermine propositional knowledge will be equally capable of imperilling knowledge-how. The goal of this paper is twofold: first, against intellectualism, we will show that knowledge-how is in fact resilient to being undermined by the very kinds of traditional (propositional) epistemic defeaters which clearly defeat the items of propositional knowledge which intellectualists identify with knowledge-how. Second, we aim to fill an important lacuna in the contemporary debate, which is to develop an alternative way in which epistemic defeat for knowledge-how could be modelled within an anti-intellectualist framework.

The Truth About Deception

The prohibition on lying is often thought to be very stringent. Some have even been tempted to think that it is absolute. In contrast, the prohibition on other forms of deception seems to be looser. This paper explores the relationship between the duty not to deceive and the duty not to lie. This discussion is situated in the context of a broadly Kantian account of morality. Kant himself infamously claimed that one ought not lie to a murderer at the door about the location of his intended victim. This paper aims to explain how a broadly Kantian view can endorse a distinctive duty not to lie without thereby being committed to this kind of conclusion.

A Deliberative Approach to Causation

Fundamental physics makes no clear use of causal notions; it uses laws that operate in relevant respects in both temporal directions and that relate whole systems across times. But by relating causation to evidence, we can explain how causation fits in to a physical picture of the world and explain its temporal asymmetry. This paper takes up a deliberative approach to causation, according to which causal relations correspond to the evidential relations we need when we decide on one thing in order to achieve another. Tamsin's taking her umbrella is a cause of her staying dry, for example, if and only if her deciding to take her umbrella for the sake of staying dry is adequate grounds for believing she'll stay dry. This correspondence explains why causation matters: knowledge of causal structure helps us make decisions that are evidence of outcomes we seek. The account also explains why we can control the future and not the past, and why causes come before their effects. When agents properly deliberate, their decisions can never count as evidence for any outcomes they may seek in the past. From this it follows that causal relations don't run backwards. This deliberative asymmetry is itself traced back to asymmetries of evidence and entropy, providing a new way of deriving causal asymmetry from temporally symmetric laws.

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