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Midwest Studies in Philosophy
ONLINE FIRST ARTICLES
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December 3, 2022
The Value and Significance of Ill-Being
first published on December 3, 2022
Since Shelly Kagan pointed out the relative neglect of ill-being in philosophical discussions, several philosophers have contributed to an emerging literature on its constituents. In doing so, they have explored possible asymmetries between the constituents of ill-being and the constituents of positive well-being. This paper explores some possible asymmetries that may arise elsewhere in the philosophy of ill-being. In particular, it considers whether there is an asymmetry between the contribution made to prudential value by equal quantities of goods and bads. It then considers a similar question about the contributions made to moral value by equal quantities of ill-being and positive well-being. The paper explores some of the difficulties involved in assessing these questions. It ends by considering broader differences, both practical and theoretical, between the significance of ill-being and of positive well-being.
December 2, 2022
Ill-being as Hating the Bad?
first published on December 2, 2022
Theories of well-being that I call “loving-the-good” claim that one intrinsically benefits if and only if one loves what is objectively good. For these views, well-being comes to be when the correct connection between world and mind obtains. Intuitively, ill-being is the opposite of well-being. I explore the resources of loving-the-good views to explain ill-being, especially whether they can do so and also meet the theoretical virtues of continuity and unity. Continuity is met when ill-being theory mirrors the well-being theory. Unity is met when all instances of a phenomenon are given the same kind of explanation. I argue that, strikingly, the key insight of loving-the-good theories of well-being does not seem plausible for ill-being. A consequence is that loving-the-good theories face significant problems to meet continuity. I examine alternatives for these views to meet unity. I argue that plausible explanations of ill-being do not meet unity either.
A Painful End for Perfectionism?
first published on December 2, 2022
This paper examines perfectionist attempts to explain the prudential badness of pain (its badness for those who experience it). It starts by considering simple perfectionist explanations, finding them wanting, before considering the most sophisticated perfectionist attempt to explain prudential badness: Gwen Bradford’s tripartite perfectionism. The paper argues that Bradford’s view, though an improvement on earlier perfectionist proposals, still does not satisfactorily explain the full set of prudentially bad pains. It ends by showing how this provides grounds for a general kind of pessimism about perfectionism and the badness of pain and how this case undermines a general purported advantage of perfectionism over the objective list theory.
November 25, 2022
first published on November 25, 2022
Why are pains bad for us? A natural answer is that it is just because of how they feel (or their felt-qualities). But this answer is cast into doubt by cases of people who are unbothered by certain pains of theirs. These pains retain their felt-qualities, but do not seem bad for the people in question. In this paper, I offer a new response to this problem. I argue that in such cases, the pains in question have become “just more of the same,” and for this reason have ceased to be bad for the relevant individuals. It is because they (implicitly) recognise this that they are unbothered by such pains.
November 23, 2022
On the Ill-Being of Animals
From Factory Farm to Forever Home
first published on November 23, 2022
Animal welfare theorists tend to assume that most animals in captivity—especially those living in our homes and in sanctuaries—can, with sufficient care and environmental enrichment, live genuinely good lives. This misguided belief stems from the view that animal well-being should be assessed only in terms of the felt experiences of animals. Against this view, I argue that in assessing how well an animal’s life is going, we ought to consider two distinct kinds of welfare: experiential welfare and subject welfare. Once we take seriously the notion of subject welfare, which pertains to the non-sentient nature of animals, we will be forced to accept the unfortunate reality that most, if not all, animals in confinement—including those living in our homes and in sanctuaries—fare quite poorly and live lives that should be characterized as having overall ill-being.
December 8, 2021
Knowledge, Certainty, Doubt
first published on December 8, 2021
For Kant, knowledge (Wissen) involves certainty (Gewissheit). If “certainty” requires that the grounds for a given propositional attitude guarantee its truth, then this is an infallibilist view of epistemic justification. Such a view says you can’t have epistemic justification for an attitude unless the attitude is also true. Here I want to defend an alternative fallibilist interpretation. Even if a subject has grounds that would be sufficient for knowledge if the proposition were true, the proposition might not be true. And so there is sometimes still rational room for doubt. The goal of this paper is to present four different models of what “certainty” amounts to, for Kant, each of which is compatible with fallibilism.
Doubting Perspectives and Creative Doubt
first published on December 8, 2021
Doubt (especially self-doubt) is often considered to be an enemy of creativity. But, might it be its friend, too? We see, in the Zhuangzi (a fourth century BCE Daoist philosophical classic), a number of explorations that point toward an interesting affirmative answer to this question. To explain how the text can be interpreted as suggesting such an answer, this paper proceeds in two parts. First, in section one, I clarify what is meant by “doubt” for the purposes of this paper, as well as several ways in which it can be directed toward its relevant target: entire perspectives (rather than merely individual propositions or sets of propositions). Following that, in section two, I outline a conception of creativity suggested by aspects of the Zhuangzi, and explain how doubt (in the sense discussed in section one) can engender creativity (in the sense discussed in section two), as well as a few reasons that this matters. I then close by briefly discussing two caveats.
December 3, 2021
No Shadow of a Doubt
Wittgenstein on Knowledge and Certainty; Neglected Themes
first published on December 3, 2021
On the standard reading of On Certainty, Wittgenstein’s fundamental idea is that primitive certainty is categorially distinct from knowledge. Since primitive certainties shape our understanding of doubt or justification, our relation to such certainties is necessarily non-epistemic: they cannot be things we know. TThis ‘Wittgensteinian’ perspective on knowledge and certainty has come to be known as “hinge epistemology, after one of Wittgenstein’s striking metaphors: “The questions that we raise and our doubts depend on the fact that some propositions are not doubted, are as it were like hinges on which those turn.” Wittgenstein is not a hinge epistemologist. Far from being arational commitments, basic certainties are basic knowledge, on an “infallibilist” conception of knowledge. To see how these ideas can be made to work, we must recognize that knowledge and doubt are deeply circumstance-dependent.
November 30, 2021
first published on November 30, 2021
Consider a language incorporating a mirror-image form of assertion, where the norm is to express what you take to be false rather than what you take to be true. Why aren’t ordinary languages like that? Why do we generally assert what we take to be true rather than what we take to be false? If Lewis (1975) and Massey (1978) are right, there is a sense in which the question is based on a mistake, and in which English (etc.) could be described either way. I explore that idea, which centers on the role of duality in language. One of the main questions in the air is whether the symmetry of duality can be used as a guide to ‘real structure’ in semantics and pragmatics. I try to think through it with an analogy to relationism about space.
November 24, 2021
J. J. Valberg
first published on November 24, 2021
The main thesis of this paper is that we have an irrational tendency to be over-impressed by success. The thesis is discussed mainly with reference to examples drawn from sport, where the role played by luck is crucial; but a brief attempt is made to generalize the thesis to other areas of life.
Skepticism and Default Assumptions
first published on November 24, 2021
A telic virtue-theoretic approach to gnoseology (to the theory of knowledge) is developed. Two new concepts are introduced: the concept of default assumptions, and the concept of secure knowledge full well. A default assumption for a given domain of human performance is an assumption that agents in that domain can make with no negligence or recklessness as they perform in the domain. Knowledge full well is judgment or representation (alethic affirmation, whether judgmental or just telically, functionally representational) that attains success (truth) aptly, and whose aptness is also attained aptly. However, secure knowledge full well requires in addition that not easily might the thinker have lacked the pertinent SSS profiles that account for the aptness and full aptness of their success. The aim of the paper is to explain how those two new concepts help explain the pertinent epistemic data concerning varieties of knowledge and epistemically rational belief. These concepts enable a virtue epistemology that more fully attains that explanatory objective.
November 17, 2021
Kant on Doubt and Error
first published on November 17, 2021
Kant’s conception of the relation between knowledge and doubt stands opposed to much of contemporary epistemology. For Kant denies that it is possible for one to have knowledge of how things are without having a ground for one’s judgment that guarantees its truth. Knowledge, according to him, is judgment that is based on a ground that the judger recognizes to guarantee the truth of her judgment. A judgment that is based on such a ground, trivially, excludes any doubt the judger might have had with respect to it. Therefore knowledge implies certainty. Much of contemporary epistemology has no room for the idea of a truth-guaranteeing ground. By contrast, Kant thinks that the rejection of the idea of a truth-guaranteeing ground has a devastating effect. It does not only render unintelligible the idea of knowledge, but, because of that, the very idea of a subject that is able to be ignorant about things, to have doubts about them or even to err about them. The paper defends the Kantian account of knowledge with the aim to show that ignorance, doubt and error can only characterize, and hence trouble, a subject that knows herself to have a capacity that enables her to overcome any possible doubt and error.
November 13, 2021
Anand Jayprakash Vaidya
Perceptual, Reflective, and Speculative Doubt
An Engagement with Nyāya
first published on November 13, 2021
In this paper I present the distinction between perceptual, reflective, and speculative doubt by engaging with the work of (mostly) early naiyāyikas. I argue that the definition of the causes of doubt offered by Gautama Akṣapāda in the Nyāya-Sūtra, and commented upon by later naiyāyikas leads to a distinction between perceptual and reflective doubt, but not to a notion of speculative doubt. I then move on to critically assess J.N. Mohanty’s comparison of Descartes’s method of doubt with the Nyāya theory of doubt through the lens of Janet Broughton’s work on Descartes’s Method of Doubt.
November 11, 2021
Katja Maria Vogt
No More This than That
first published on November 11, 2021
In the terms of ancient epistemology, Pyrrho is a dogmatist, not a skeptic, simply on account of putting forward a metaphysical theory. His most contested claim is that things are indifferent, unmeasured, and indeterminate—or, on a competing reconstruction, that things are indifferentiable, unmeasurable, and indeterminable. This paper argues that Pyrrho’s position, which I call Pyrrhonian Indeterminacy, belongs to a rich tradition of revisionist metaphysics that includes ancient atomism, flux metaphysics, Plato’s analysis of becoming, and today’s discussions of indeterminacy and vagueness. This tradition, my argument continues, makes room for a kind of metaphysics that proceeds in epistemological terms. Pyrrho’s indeterminacy claim says that things are indeterminate insofar as they do not have features by reference to which we can determine them to be such-and-such. We should not waver or be inclined to see things one way or another—we should see things, and describe them, as “no more this than that.”
October 26, 2021
Banal Skepticism and the Errors of Doubt
On Ephecticism about Rape Accusations
first published on October 26, 2021
Ephecticism is the tendency towards suspension of belief. Epistemology often focuses on the error of believing when one ought to doubt. The converse error—doubting when one ought to believe—is relatively underexplored. This essay examines the errors of undue doubt. I draw on the relevant alternatives framework to diagnose and remedy undue doubts about rape accusations. Doubters tend to invoke standards for belief that are too demanding, for example, and underestimate how farfetched uneliminated error possibilities are. They mistake seeing how incriminating evidence is compatible with innocence for a reason to withhold judgement. Rape accusations help illuminate the causes and normativity of doubt. I propose a novel kind of epistemic injustice, for example, wherein patterns of unwarranted attention to farfetched error possibilities can cause those error possibilities to become relevant. Widespread unreasonable doubt thus renders doubt reasonable and makes it harder to know rape accusations. Finally, I emphasise that doubt is typically a conservative force and I argue that the relevant alternatives framework helps defend against pernicious doubt-mongers.
October 21, 2021
Skepticism, Revisionary Metaphysics, and Why Epistemic Akrasia May Be Good for You
first published on October 21, 2021
One of the most salient features of epistemology in the past two decades—in fact, perhaps the most salient—is the explosion of literature on how higher-order evidence impacts the rationality of one’s first-order beliefs. Higher-order evidence is, primarily, evidence about what one’s evidence supports. An important concept in the debate is epistemic akrasia. Roughly, the akrates believes: “p, but my evidence does not support p.” Criticisms of epistemic akrasia have focused on certain sorts of mundane examples. They have generally scanted the role that akrasia plays in large classical epistemological issues concerning “Grand Epistemic Narratives,” notably skepticism and relativism. Additionally, akrasia may enter into the enterprise of revisionary metaphysics; and, finally, into the practice of philosophers who hold beliefs in the face of wide peer disagreement. This paper thus illustrates the relevance of epistemic akrasia to important philosophical issues. It leaves us, moreover, with a significant measure of puzzlement.
October 19, 2021
Disorientation, Doubt, Dissonance
first published on October 19, 2021
I develop the claim that paradigmatic cases of self-deceptive inquiry and belief-formation result from cognitive disorientation. In cognitive disorientation, the data, experiences, and practices we make use of in typical inquiry lead us awry in systematic fashion. The self-deceiver encounters a puzzle or a threat to her picture of the world; this doubt or uncertainty gives rise to questions she struggles to settle. Drawing on the theory of cognitive dissonance, I show that while taking herself to be engaged in the familiar effort to settle a question, she undermines, by her own efforts, her success in achieving that goal. I appeal to two elements of such disorientation: Confusion of Aim and Misleading Feedback. I argue that we can find a role for both in the self-deceiver’s effort to settle a question.
October 12, 2021
Who Needs It?
first published on October 12, 2021
It is generally thought that if introspective distinguishability (ID) were available, it would provide an answer to scepticism about perceptual knowledge by enabling us to tell the difference between a good case perceptual experience and a bad kind. This paper challenges this common assumption by showing that even if ID were available, it would not advance our case against scepticism. The conclusion to draw from this result is not to concede to scepticism, however, but rather to give up on the idea that ID is required for knowledge. For if perception with ID turns out to get us no further than perception without ID, then the rational thing to do is to realize that the putative presence (or absence) of ID is a red herring in the debate about scepticism and can make no difference to the question of whether or not perceptual knowledge is possible.
October 8, 2021
Truth, Inquiry, Doubt
first published on October 8, 2021
What is the relationship between inquiry and doubt? Understanding this relationship involves confronting a range of questions. These include: what is required to motivate inquiry, what does it take to legitimately settle inquiry, and what is the goal of inquiry (is this just whatever legitimately settles inquiry, or can it be something distinct)? These questions will be approached via the consideration of an influential proposal regarding the relationship between belief, doubt and inquiry offered in recent work by Jane Friedman. In critiquing this proposal we will be able to better understand what motivates a certain knowledge-based conception of the goal of inquiry, and also clarify the role of truth and doubt in inquiry.
October 6, 2021
Diego E. Machuca
Is Pyrrhonian Suspension Incompatible with Doubt?
first published on October 6, 2021
The Pyrrhonian skeptic’s stance, as described by Sextus Empiricus, is in good part defined by his suspending judgment or belief about all the matters he has so far investigated. Most interpreters of Pyrrhonism maintain that it is a mistake to understand this form of skepticism in terms of doubt because suspension as conceived of by the Pyrrhonist is markedly different from the state of doubt. In this article, I expound the reasons that have been offered in support of that prevailing view and assess their strength.
October 5, 2021
N. Ángel Pinillos
Evidence Sensitivity as a Heuristic for Doubt
first published on October 5, 2021
Sensitivity-type principles are prominent in epistemology. They have the promise to explain our intuitive and considered reactions to a wide range of important cases in everyday life, science and philosophy. Despite this promise, philosophers have raised a number of very serious objections to the principles. Accordingly, I propose a different type of sensitivity account which, I believe, gets around these serious objections. An important feature of the new approach is that the principle I propose need not be true. Rather, it should be understood as a cognitive heuristic that tells us when something is not known—a type of doubt. A second feature is that the principle does not care about what one’s belief would be like in counter-factual situations. Instead, it cares about what the bases or causes for the belief would be like in those situations.
October 2, 2021
Doubt and the Revolutionary
first published on October 2, 2021
So, you want to start a revolution. There is something significant in the world around you that is wrong: unjust, oppressive, unfair, unequal. Half measures won’t suffice. Something dramatic, revolutionary, is required. You have ideas. You might have a plan. But although you are certain of the wrong around you, you are not certain of the path forward. You have some doubt about the plan, whether it will work, its moral costs, and whether there are problems you cannot yet see. You have revolutionary doubt. That is good. We need revolutions. But revolutions should not be only (or ever?) conducted by the certain. This article will help you to nourish that doubt, to see why it is almost always epistemically appropriate if also almost always difficult to maintain, to learn how to live and act with it, and to give it its due without it leading to paralysis and inaction.
September 22, 2021
Nathan Ballantyne, Peter H. Ditto
first published on September 22, 2021
“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”—so says Hanlon’s Razor. This principle is designed to curb the human tendency toward explaining other people’s behavior by moralizing it. We ask whether Hanlon’s Razor is good or bad advice. After offering a nuanced interpretation of the principle, we critically evaluate two strategies purporting to show it is good advice. Our discussion highlights important, unsettled questions about an idea that has the potential to infuse greater humility and civility into discourse and debate.
September 21, 2021
Helen De Cruz
Perplexity and Philosophical Progress
first published on September 21, 2021
Perplexity is an epistemic emotion with deep philosophical significance. In ancient Greek philosophy, it is identified as a catalyst for philosophical progress and personal philosophical transformation. In psychological terms, perplexity is the phenomenological sense of lacking immersion in the world, a state of puzzlement and alienation from one’s everyday surroundings. What could make such an emotion philosophically useful? To answer this question, I examine the role of perplexity in Jane Addams’s political theory and ethics. Addams, a social reformer and American pragmatist philosopher, regarded perplexity as an emotion that arises out of specific situations, such as being part of a social settlement, union actions, or trying to surmount gender expectations. Perplexity allows us cognitive distance from our everyday customary morality and ordinary habits of thinking, and this pushes us to become creative in our philosophical reflection. I contextualize perplexity in Jane Addams’s social reforms, and examine the relevance of her ideas today.
September 18, 2021
Doubts, Philosophy, and Therapy
first published on September 18, 2021
There is nowadays a tendency, to be dated back to Gordon Baker’s reading, to interpret the later Wittgenstein as proposing a thoroughly therapeutic view of philosophy. Accordingly, he was not dealing with philosophical problems to show how they originated in a misunderstanding of our language. For that would have presupposed his advancing theses about how language works. Rather, his therapeutic method was in the service of liberating philosophers from the kind of intellectual prejudices that would prompt them to ask philosophical questions. The article examines the complex interconnections between Wittgenstein and Waismann to show how the thorough-going therapeutic reading of Wittgenstein proposed by Baker is in fact a projection of Waismann’s ideas onto Wittgenstein. Moreover, by looking at Wittgenstein’s complex anti-skeptical strategies in On Certainty, it shows that his aim was not to provide therapy against philosophers’ inclinations, but to show that skeptical doubts are misguided and nonsensical.
September 16, 2021
Doubt as a Political Virtue
first published on September 16, 2021
This article explicates the notion of doubt and the relationship of doubt to belief and conviction. It distinguishes three types of political virtue—leadership, systemic, and corrective—and considers whether doubt is a political virtue in any of these three senses. It is argued that while doubt is not a leadership virtue, it is a systemic and a corrective virtue. Specifically, it is potentially an antidote to methods, ideological, and psychological extremism. A distinction is drawn between extremism and forms of radicalism that have resulted in social progress. It is possible for doubt to play a role in countering extremism without thereby also countering progressive radicalism. The concluding section develops a theory of deradicalization and identifies the role of radical doubt in deradicalization programmes. The proposed empirically informed account of deradicalization highlights the role of narratives in radicalization and deradicalization.
June 23, 2021
Countering Servility through Pride and Humility
first published on June 23, 2021
This article argues that an interlocutor’s deference and open-mindedness can indicate servility rather than virtuous humility. Section 1 evaluates an influential philosophical analysis of the virtue of humility and two psychological measures, all of which emphasize the contrast between humility and arrogance. Section 2 develops a philosophical analysis of servility, building on the limitations-owning view. It argues that servility is an unwillingness or inability to be attentive to and own one’s strengths, and a disposition to be overly attentive to and over-own one’s limitations. Section 3 sketches a picture of servility in political discourse, suggesting that we can expect servility to be positively correlated with deferring to others, open-mindedness, and belief-revision, and negatively correlated with anger. Section 4 sketches a picture of countering servility in political discourse through the virtues of pride and humility. By comparison with servility, we can expect virtuously proud and virtuously humble people to exhibit higher correlations with refusals to defer, to be open, to engage, and to revise beliefs. It points us toward psychological measures that aim to distinguish the virtue of humility from the vice of servility.
June 19, 2021
J. L. Schellenberg
first published on June 19, 2021
Here I show how thinking of inquiry as immature can illuminate problems about metaphysical and scientific realism. I begin with the question whether human beings at the very beginning of systematic inquiry who (counterfactually) held themselves to be thus situated, temporally speaking, and came to recognize their inability to prove or probabilify the truth of metaphysical realism would have been justified in believing or accepting metaphysical realism even so. Drawing on broadly Wittgensteinian ideas I defend an affirmative answer. Then I extrapolate from this result, arguing by analogy that acceptance of both metaphysical realism and scientific realism is justified for us today.