I find very persuasive arguments like this:
If theory T is true, then whether I exist now depends on some future events. Facts about what exists now do not depend on future events. So, theory T is not true. …
One of the most wonderful parts of the North American Summer School for Language, Logic and Information is the opportunity it a↵ords young scholars to discuss their work with experts. By the same token, it is often inspiring for established researchers to see the creative directions in which recent work is being taken.
In 'Must Consequentialists Kill?' (forthcoming in J Phil), Setiya convincingly argues against the "orthodox" view that commonsense verdicts about the ethics of killing entail agent-relativity. Instead, he observes: "In general, when you should not cause harm to one in a way that will benefit others, you should not want others to do so either." …
In this paper, I explore a conception of self-transformation that attempts to provide a holistic account covering a range of body, mind, and spirit. I draw upon Kym Maclaren’s exploration of the role of the body inspired by the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (body); the hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer (mind [language]); and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s transcendentalism (spirit). I present the case that each of these approaches develops important aspects of self-transformation and can be seen as complementary. I explore this in relation to philosophy as a practical activity, drawing upon Pierre Hadot’s perspective of philosophy as a way of life.
Can there be ‘peaceful coexistence’ between quantum theory and special relativity? Thirty years ago, Shimony hoped that isolating the culprit (i.e. the false assumption) in proofs of Bell inequalities as Outcome Independence would secure such peaceful coexistence: or, if not secure it, at least show a way—maybe the best or only way—to secure it. In this paper, I begin by being sceptical of Shimony’s approach, urging that we need a relativistic solution to the quantum measurement problem (Section 2). Then I analyse Outcome Independence in Kent’s realist one-world Lorentz-invariant interpretation of quantum theory (Section 3 and 4). Then I consider Shimony’s other condition, Parameter Independence, both in Kent’s proposal and more generally, in the light of recent remarkable theorems by Colbeck, Renner and Leegwater (Section 5). For both Outcome Independence and Parameter Independence, there is a striking analogy with the situation in pilot-wave theory. Finally, I will suggest that these recent theorems make some kind of peaceful coexistence mandatory for someone who, like Shimony, endorses Parameter Independence.
Is replication in the cultural domain ubiquitous, rare, or non-existent? And how does this relate to that paradigmatic case of replication, the copying of DNA in living cells? Theorists of cultural evolution are divided on these issues. The most important objection to the replication model has been leveled by Dan Sperber and his colleagues. Cultural transmission, they argue, is almost always reconstructive and transformative, while ‘replication’ can be seen as a rare limiting case at most. Though Sperber’s critique is valuable, I argue that a purely informational approach to replication can clear up some confusion. By means of some thought experiments, I make a distinction between evocation and extraction of cultural information, and apply these concepts at different levels of resolution. I conclude that, even after having taken Sperber’s important points on board, we can still talk about replication in the cultural domain, which is an important issue for certain explanatory projects (i.e. understanding cumulative culture and cultural adaptation).
Suppose you and I are adding up a column of expenses, but our only interest is the last digit for some reason. You and I know that we are epistemic peers. We’ve both just calculated the last digit, and a Carl asks: Is the last digit a one? …
« Not the critic who counts
The problem with Uber
I just spent a wonderful and exhausting five days in the Bay Area: meeting friends, holding the first-ever combined SlateStarCodex/Shtetl-Optimized meetup, touring quantum computing startups PsiCorp and Rigetti Computing, meeting with Silicon Valley folks about quantum computing, and giving a public lecture for the Simons Institute in Berkeley. …
.A world beyond p-values? I was asked to write something explaining the background of my slides (posted here) in relation to the recent ASA “A World Beyond P-values” conference. I took advantage of some long flight delays on my return to jot down some thoughts:
The contrast between the closing session of the conference “A World Beyond P-values,” and the gist of the conference itself, shines a light on a pervasive tension within the “Beyond P-Values” movement. …
Causal finitism lets you give a metaphysical definition of the finite. Here’s something I just noticed. This yields a metaphysical definition of the countable (phrased in terms of pluralities rather than sets):
The xs are countable provided that it is possible to have a total ordering on the xs such if a is any of the xs, then there are only finitely many xs smaller (in that ordering) than x.
Here’s an intuitive argument that this definition fits with the usual mathematical one if we have an independently adequate notion of nautral numbers. …
Assuming the Peano Axioms of arithmetic are consistent, we know that there are infinitely many sets that satisfy them. Which of these infinitely many sets is the set of natural numbers? A plausible tempting answer is: “It doesn’t matter—any one of them will do.”
But that’s not right. …
Deductive reasoning is one way by which we acquire new beliefs. Some of these beliefs so acquired amount to knowledge; others do not. Here are two principles, each of which states a sufficient condition for acquiring knowledge through deduction: Single-premise closure (SPC) For any propositions P and Q, and for any subject S, if S knows P and comes to believe Q solely on the basis of competently deducing it from P , while retaining knowledge of P throughout, then S knows Q.
According to the so-called strong variant of Composition as Identity (CAI), the Principle of Indiscernibility of Identicals can be extended to composition, by resorting to broadly Fregean relativizations of cardinality ascriptions. In this paper we analyze various ways in which this relativization could be achieved. According to one broad variety of relativization, cardinality ascriptions are about objects, while concepts occupy an additional argument place. It should be possible to paraphrase the cardinality ascriptions in plural logic and, as a consequence, relative counting requires the relativization either of quantifiers, or of identity, or of the is one of relation. However, some of these relativizations do not deliver the expected results, and others rely on problematic assumptions. In another broad variety of relativization, cardinality ascriptions are about concepts or sets. The most promising development of this approach is prima facie connected with a violation of the so-called Coreferentiality Constraint, according to which an identity statement is true only if its terms have the same referent. Moreover – even provided that the problem with coreferentiality can be fixed – the resulting analysis of cardinality ascriptions meets several difficulties.
It’s currently fashionable to take Putnamian model theoretic worries seriously for mathematics, but not for discussions of ordinary physical objects and the sciences. In this paper, I will attack this combination of views in two ways. First, I’ll (quickly) suggest there’s an analogy between the challenge of understanding realist reference to physical possibility and that of understanding reference to the kind of logical/combinatorial possibility invoked when we say that second order quantifiers range over ‘all possible subsets’ or it would be ‘logically impossible’ for a property to apply to 0 and the successor of any number it applies to but not all the numbers. Second, I will argue that (under certain mild assumptions about the physical possibility of infinite stochastic physical systems) merely securing determinate reference to physical possibility suffices to rule out nonstandard models of our talk about number theory. So anyone who accepts realist reference to physical possibility faces pressure to also accept such reference to (at least) the standard model of the natural numbers.
In this paper I will draw attention to an important route to external world skepticism, which I will call confidence skepticism. I will argue that we can defang confidence skepticism (though not a meeker ‘argument from might’ which has got some attention in the 20th century literature on external world skepticism) by adopting a partially psychologistic answer to the problem of priors. And I will argue that certain recent work in the epistemology of mathematics and logic provides independent support for such psychologism.
This note points out a conflict between some common intuitions about metaphysical possibility. On the one hand, it is appealing to deny that there are robust counterfactuals about how various physically impossible substances would interact with the matter that exists at our world. On the other hand, our intuitions about how concepts like MOUNTAIN apply at other metaphysically possible worlds seem to presuppose facts about ‘solidity’ which cash out in terms of these counterfactuals. I consider several simple attempts to resolve this conflict and note they all fall short.
John Rawls recommends a method for evaluating which principles institutions should abide by, known as reflective equilibrium. In this paper, I identify and challenge three assumptions that he makes.
In this paper I discuss a trivialization worry for currently popular formulations of the ‘access problem’ in philosophy of mathematics. I argue that we can avoid this worry by relating access worries to general epistemic norms of coincidence avoidance. Specifically, I propose that a realist theory of some domain of investigation (such as mathematics or morals) faces an access problem to the extent that accepting this theory commits one to positing any extra unexplained coincidence beyond those required by competing deflationary approaches to the same domain. I then use this formulation of the access problem to diagnose what goes wrong in Justin Clarke-Doane’s recent argument that there can be no access problem.
Chomsky (1957) offered prescient suggestions about how to formulate theories of understanding for the spoken languages that human children can naturally acquire. We can view his proposal as a prolegomenon to a theory of meaning that combines a layered theory of syntax with an account of how humans can naturally use expressions in acts of referring, asserting, querying, and so on; cp. Austin (1961); Davidson (1967); Dummett (1976); Higginbotham (1985). Though crucially, Chomsky’s (1957) conception of reference differed from more familiar conceptions of denotation, as in Frege (1892b) or Russell (1905, 1912, 1957); cp. Goodman (1949, 1953), Strawson (1950), Chomsky (1977, 1995b, 2000b, 2017). I think we should develop the kind of semantic theory towards which Chomsky has long been pointing; see Pietroski (2017abc). But in this essay, my aim is simply to articulate a sense in which Syntactic Structures outlined a program for semantics, well before Davidson (1967), Montague (1970), and Lewis (1970).
Introduced into the philosophical lexicon during the Eighteenth
Century, the term ‘aesthetic’ has come to be used to
designate, among other things, a kind of object, a kind of judgment, a
kind of attitude, a kind of experience, and a kind of value. For the
most part, aesthetic theories have divided over
questions particular to one or another of these designations:
whether artworks are necessarily aesthetic objects; how to square the
allegedly perceptual basis of aesthetic judgments with the fact that
we give reasons in support of them; how best to capture the elusive
contrast between an aesthetic attitude and a practical one; whether to
define aesthetic experience according to its phenomenological or
representational content; how best to understand the relation between
aesthetic value and aesthetic experience.
The topic of this paper is the notion of the first person (singular), namely the notion me. Let us begin by distinguishing it from a different notion which is often confused with it, namely the notion self. The notion me applies to me and me alone absolutely, whereas the notion self applies to me relative to me, applies to you relative to you, applies to Jill relative to Jill, applies to Jack relative to Jack, and so on. Everyone is the self relative to her/him; for every x, x is the self to x. But only I am me, period. Of course, you may assert correctly, “Only I am me.” But the content of your assertion when you say this does not deal in the notion me; for your word “me” does not express the notion me. Only my word “me” does. It is not even that your word “me” expresses the notion me to you. To you your word “me” expresses a certain notion, which you call “the notion me.” But what you call “the notion me” is not the notion me, any more than the person you call “me” is me.
Many bricks, when configured appropriately, constitute one house. How is it possible for plurality to yield unity? This is the metaphysical problem of unity. Introducing another thing, say, the configuration of the bricks, into the picture would not solve it, for the bricks plus the configuration are still plurality. This is the famous Bradley’s regress, as applied to the problem of unity. Something must unify the bricks, but it cannot be any additional thing on pain of Bradley’s regress. Therefore, Graham Priest (2014) infers, the metaphysical glue – called ‘gluon’ by Priest – that unifies the bricks must be one of the bricks. I would like to offer a modest critique of Priest’s gluon theory.
Suppose I say that Jim yelled in delight at 12:31. But in fact he did so at 12:32. Then I said something false but approximately true. Now, suppose that I hear Jim giving a loud yell of delight about 300 meters away. …
A well-known problem, noticed by Meirav, is that it is difficult to distinguish hope from despair. Both the hoper and the despairer are unsure about an outcome and they both have a positive attitude towards it. …
Loyalty is usually seen as a virtue, albeit a problematic one. It is
constituted centrally by perseverance in an association to which a
person has become intrinsically committed as a matter of his or her
identity. Its paradigmatic expression is found in close friendship, to
which loyalty is integral, but many other relationships and
associations seek to encourage it as an aspect of affiliation or
membership: families expect it, organizations often demand it, and
countries do what they can to foster it. May one also have loyalty to
principles or other abstractions? Derivatively. Two key issues in the
discussion of loyalty concern its status as a virtue and, if that
status is granted, the limits to which loyalty ought to be
This paper deals with two issues. First, it identifies structured propositions with logical procedures. Second, it considers various rigorous definitions of the granularity of procedures, hence also of structured propositions, and comes out in favour of one of them. As for the first point, structured propositions are explicated as algorithmically structured procedures. I show that these procedures are structured wholes that are assigned to expressions as their meanings, and their constituents are sub-procedures occurring in executed mode (as opposed to displayed mode). Moreover, procedures are not mere aggregates of their parts; rather, procedural constituents mutually interact. As for the second point, there is no universal criterion of the structural isomorphism of meanings, hence of cohyperintensionality, hence of synonymy for every kind of language. The positive result I present is an ordered set of rigorously defined criteria of fine-grained individuation in terms of the structure of procedures. Hence procedural semantics provides a solution to the problem of the granularity of cohyperintensionality.
This paper analyses the anti-reductionist argument from renormalisation group explanations of universality, and shows how it can be rebutted if one assumes that the explanation in question is captured by the counter-factual dependence account of explanation.
There is currently a lot of attention on the UK’s “housing crisis”. One issue here is the quantity of available housing. There are commitments to address the shortage of housing in the 2017 manifestos of both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. …
I am thrilled to introduce our first symposium in a series on articles from Neuroscience of Consciousness, on Nicholas Shea and Chris Frith’s “Dual-process theories and consciousness: the case for ‘Type Zero’ cognition.” We have three excellent commentaries on the paper, by Jacob Berger, Nick Byrd, and Elizabeth Schechter, along with a response by the authors, each of which can be linked to below. …
Intentions have been a central subject of research since contemporary philosophy of action emerged in the middle of the twentieth century. For almost that entire period, the approach has been to treat the study of intentions as separate from the study of morality. This essay offers a brief overview of that history and then suggests some ways forward, as exemplified by the essays collected in this volume.