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Displaying: 1-10 of 177 documents


1. Res Philosophica: Volume > 94 > Issue: 3
J. L. Dowell, Truth-assessment Methodology and the Case against the Relativist Case against Contextualism about Deontic Modals
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Recent challenges to Kratzer’s canonical contextualist semantics for modal expressions are united by a shared methodological practice: Each requires the assessment of the truth or warrant of a sentence in a scenario. The default evidential status accorded these judgments is a constraining one: It is assumed that, to be plausible, a semantic hypothesis must vindicate the reported judgments. Fully assessing the extent to which these cases do generate data that puts pressure on the canonical semantics, then, requires an understanding of this methodological practice.Here I argue that not all assessments are fit to play this evidential role. To play it, we need reason to think that speakers’ assessments can be reasonably expected to be reliable. Minimally, having such grounds requires that assessments are given against the background of non-defectively characterized points of evaluation. Assessing MacFarlane’s central challenge case to contextualism about deontic modals in light of this constraint shows that his judgments do not have the needed evidential significance. In addition, new experimental data shows that once the needed scenario is characterized non-defectively, none of the resulting range of cases provides data that cannot be accommodated by a Kratzer-style contextualism.
2. Res Philosophica: Volume > 94 > Issue: 3
Brian Leftow, The Nature of Necessity
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I give an account of the nature of absolute or metaphysical necessity. Absolute-necessarily P, I suggest, just if it is always the case that P and there never is or was a power with a chance to bring it about, bring about a power to bring it about, etc., that not P. I display both advantages and a cost of this sort of definition.
3. Res Philosophica: Volume > 94 > Issue: 3
Gillian Russell, Indexicals and Sider's Neo-Linguistic Account of Necessity
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Sider offers a new take on a linguistic account of necessity. In this paper, I assess his view’s vulnerability to objections made against more traditional linguistic accounts, especially an argument I call the “indexical problem.” I conclude that the indexical problem has no force against Sider’s approach because the view is able to attribute modal properties directly to propositions, rather than indirectly via analytic sentences that express them. However, Sider also argues that traditional linguistic accounts fail because of two well-known problems, and I argue that the same two problems undermine his own account.
4. Res Philosophica: Volume > 94 > Issue: 3
Meghan Sullivan, Boring Ontological Realism
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Boring ontological realists hold that objects exist at times and persist over time without having substantive essences. Boring realism is a consequence of the minimal A-theory of time and the most sensible formulations of necessitism. This kind of realism is at odds with a ubiquitous realist thesis, which I call the persistenceessence link. This essay surveys some examples of the persistence-essence link and argues that it is best understood as a thesis about grounding. If we understand the link in terms of grounding, there are new options for denying it—and for better understanding boring realism.
5. Res Philosophica: Volume > 94 > Issue: 3
Timothy Williamson, Modality as a Subject for Science
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Section 1 introduces the category of objective (non-epistemic) modality, closely related to linguists’ category of circumstantial or dynamic modals, and explains metaphysical modality as its maximal element. Section 2 discusses various kinds of skepticism about modality, as in Hume and recent authors, and argues that it is illmotivated to apply such skepticism to metaphysical modality but not to more restricted objective modalities, including nomic modality. Section 3 suggests that the role of counterfactual conditionals in applications of scientific theories involves an objective modal dimension. Section 4 briefly discusses the role of objective probabilities in scientific theories as exemplifying the scientific study of objective modality. Section 5 summarizes a case study of dynamical systems theory, widely used in natural science, as a mathematical theory whose intended applications are objectively modal, as perspicuously articulated in a language with modal and temporal operators and propositional quantification. State spaces in natural science characterize objective possibilities. Section 6 argues that, although those possibilities are usually more restricted than metaphysical possibility, their scientific study is a partial study of metaphysical possibility too.
6. Res Philosophica: Volume > 94 > Issue: 2
Kenny Easwaran, The Tripartite Role of Belief: Evidence, Truth, and Action
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Belief and credence are often characterized in three different ways—they ought to govern our actions, they ought to be governed by our evidence, and they ought to aim at the truth. If one of these roles is to be central, we need to explain why the others should be features of the same mental state rather than separate ones. If multiple roles are equally central, then this may cause problems for some traditional arguments about what belief and credence must be like. I read the history of formal and traditional epistemology through the lens of these functional roles, and suggest that considerations from one literature might have a role in the other. The similarities and differences between these literatures may suggest some more general ideas about the nature of epistemology in abstraction from the details of credence and belief in particular.
7. Res Philosophica: Volume > 94 > Issue: 2
Alan Hájek, Hanti Lin, A Tale of Two Epistemologies?
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So-called “traditional epistemology” and “Bayesian epistemology” share a word, but it may often seem that the enterprises hardly share a subject matter. They differ in their central concepts. They differ in their main concerns. They differ in their main theoretical moves. And they often differ in their methodology.However, in the last decade or so, there have been a number of attempts to build bridges between the two epistemologies. Indeed, many would say that there is just one branch of philosophy here—epistemology. There is a common subject matter after all.In this paper, we begin by playing the role of a “bad cop,” emphasizing many apparent points of disconnection, and even conflict, between the approaches to epistemology. We then switch role, playing a “good cop” who insists that the approaches are engaged in common projects after all. We look at various ways in which the gaps between them have been bridged, and we consider the prospects for bridging them further. We conclude that this is an exciting time for epistemology, as the two traditions can learn, and have started learning, from each other.
8. Res Philosophica: Volume > 94 > Issue: 2
Terry Horgan, Troubles for Bayesian Formal Epistemology
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I raise skeptical doubts about the prospects of Bayesian formal epistemology for providing an adequate general normative model of epistemic rationality. The notion of credence, I argue, embodies a very dubious psychological myth, viz., that for virtually any proposition p that one can entertain and understand, one has some quantitatively precise, 0-to-1 ratio-scale, doxastic attitude toward p. The concept of credence faces further serious problems as well—different ones depending on whether credence 1 is construed as full belief (the limit case of so-called partial belief) or instead is construed as absolute certainty. I argue that the notion of an “ideal Bayesian reasoner” cannot serve as a normative ideal that actual human agents should seek to emulate as closely as they can, because different such reasoners who all have the same evidence as oneself—no single one them being uniquely psychologically most similar to oneself—will differ from one another in their credences (e.g., because they commence from different prior credences). I argue that epistemic probability, properly understood, is quantitative degree of evidential support relative to one’s evidence, and that principled epistemic probabilities arise only under quite special evidential circumstances—which means that epistemic probability is ill suited to figure centrally within general norms of human epistemic rationality.
9. Res Philosophica: Volume > 94 > Issue: 2
Susanna Rinard, Imprecise Probability and Higher Order Vagueness
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There is a trade-off between specificity and accuracy in accounts of belief. Descriptions of agents in the tripartite account, which recognizes three doxastic attitudes—belief, disbelief, and suspension—are accurate, but not specific. The orthodox Bayesian account, which requires real-valued credences, is specific, but often inaccurate. I argue that a popular attempt to fix the Bayesian account by using sets of functions is also inaccurate; it suffers from a problem analogous to higher order vagueness. Ultimately, I argue, the only way to avoid these problems is to endorse a principle with the surprising consequence that the trade-off between accuracy and specificity is in-principle unavoidable. However, we can nonetheless improve on both the tripartite and existing Bayesian accounts. I construct a new framework that allows descriptions that are much more specific than those of the tripartite account and yet remain, unlike existing Bayesian accounts, perfectly accurate.
10. Res Philosophica: Volume > 94 > Issue: 2
Sherri Roush, Closure Failure and Scientific Inquiry
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Deduction is important to scientific inquiry because it can extend knowledge efficiently, bypassing the need to investigate everything directly. The existence of closure failure—where one knows the premises and that the premises imply the conclusion but nevertheless does not know the conclusion—is a problem because it threatens this usage. It means that we cannot trust deduction for gaining new knowledge unless we can identify such cases ahead of time so as to avoid them. For philosophically engineered examples we have “inner alarm bells” to detect closure failure, but in scientific investigation we would want to use deduction for extension of our knowledge to matters we don’t already know that we couldn’t know. Through a quantitative treatment of how fast probabilistic sensitivity is lost over steps of deduction, I identify a condition that guarantees that the growth of potential error will be gradual; thus, dramatic closure failure is avoided. Whether the condition is fulfilled is often obvious, but sometimes it requires substantive investigation. I illustrate that not only safe deduction but the discovery of dramatic closure failures can lead to scientific advances.