I offer an epistemic framework for theorising about faith. I suggest that epistemic faith is a disposition to believe or infer according to particular methods, despite a kind of tendency to perceive an epistemic shortcoming in that method. Faith is unjustified, and issues into unjustified beliefs, when the apparent epistemic shortcomings are actual; it is justified when the epistemic worries are unfounded. Virtuous faith is central to a great deal of epistemology. A rational agent will manifest faith in their perceptual abilities, in determining which experts and testifiers to trust, in their a priori reasoning, and in the epistemic capacities that are specific to their social environment. To ignore faith is to ignore a crucial element of our social and individualistic epistemic lives.
I recently participated in a workshop on ‘Algorithmic Governance in Transport’ at the OECD in Paris. The workshop was organised by the International Transport Federation (ITF), which is a sub-unit of the OECD that focuses on transport policy and regulation. …
Arguments implicating nature and science can arise in the most unlikely places. At the supermarket smoked salmon awaits shoppers: chinook salmon from British Columbia, and Atlantic salmon from B.C., New Brunswick, or Norway. They are priced the same, and look similar, but embedded in their diverse provenance is a controversy thirty years in the making. The “wild” chinook salmon were caught in the open ocean; the “farmed” Atlantic salmon were raised in pens in coastal inlets. The distinction has spawned an intense debate over salmon farming (also known as aquaculture)—nowhere more so than in British Columbia. In some ways this coastal controversy is unique, epitomizing the symbolic significance of all things marine to British Columbians. But it shares a crucial feature with other controversies, such as those involving genetically modified organisms, nanotechnology, or climate change. Since the debate began, science has played an essential role as a source of information and authority. Scientific knowledge and practice can be said to have contributed to creating the controversy, have added to its intractability, and, perhaps hold some keys to its resolution.
In his influential work, A social history of truth, Steven Shapin (1995) has argued for the central role of social status in the assessment of experimental knowledge. In his view, in seventeenth‐century England, gentlemen were considered the right kind of persons to trust because of their freedom of action, codes of virtue and honour. These characteristics ensured credibility and, hence, compelled assent. However, Shapin does not put sufficient emphasis on the relevance of the testifier’s competence in the validation of knowledge. When and in which circumstances did expertise become more important than social status in the accreditation of natural knowledge?
A physically consistent semi-classical treatment of black holes requires universality arguments to screen late-time Hawking radiation from ultra-short distance near-horizon effects. We evaluate three families of such arguments in comparison with Wilsonian renormalization group universality arguments found in the context of condensed matter physics. Particular emphasis is placed on the quality whereby the various arguments are underpinned by ‘integrated’ notions of robustness and universality. Whereas the principal strength of Wilsonian universality arguments can be understood in terms of the presence of such integration, the principal weakness of all three universality arguments for Hawking radiation is its absence.
Science and expertise have been antithetical forms of knowledge in both the ancient and the modern world, but they appear identical in today’s postmodern world, especially in the Science & Technology Studies (STS) literature. The ancient Athenians associated science (epistemé) with the contemplative life afforded to those who lived from inherited wealth. Expertise (techné) was for those lacking property, and hence citizenship. Such people were regularly forced to justify their usefulness to Athenian society. Some foreign merchants, collectively demonised in Plato’s Dialogues as ‘sophists’, appeared so insulting to citizen Socrates, because they dared to alienate aspects of this leisured existence (e.g. the capacity for articulate reasoning) and repackage them as techniques that might be purchased on demand from an expert – that is, a sophist. In effect, the sophists cleverly tried to universalise their own alien status, taking full advantage of the strong analogy that Athenians saw between the governance of the self and the polis. Unfortunately, Plato, the original spin doctor, immortalised Socrates’ laboured and hyperbolic rearguard response to these sly and partially successful attempts at dislodging hereditary privilege.
The topic of expertise has become especially lively in recent years in academic discussions and debates about the politics of science. It is easy to understand why the topic holds such strong interest in Science & Technology Studies (STS) and related fields. There are at least two basic reasons for such interest. One is that experts are undoubtedly important in modern societies, and the other is that trends in STS research tend to be critical of the cognitive authority associated with the public role of the expert. Putting the two together, STS researchers often align themselves with environmentalist and other movements that question the impartiality of experts and seek to democratize decisions about science and technology. Though such alignment is in many respects laudable, it can also be a source of confusion and misplaced political criticism. Toward the end of this brief synopsis of current STS research and debates on the topic of expertise, I will suggest an alternative agenda for engaging the politics of science and technology.
« The NP genie
Why are amplitudes complex? [By prior agreement, this post will be cross-posted on Microsoft’s Q# blog, even though it has nothing to do with the Q# programming language. It does, however, contain many examples that might be fun to implement in Q#!] …
Propositional knowledge requires not only epistemically justified belief, but autonomous belief. This at any rate is the conclusion of the previous chapter. But what exactly does this involve? More specifically, what must be the case for an autonomous belief condition on knowledge to be satisfied by a knower? So far, we haven’t said.
The 1999 film The Matrix has become almost cliche in mainstream epistemology as a way of ‘updating’ Descartes’ evil-genius radical sceptical thought experiment from Meditation One—a thought experiment where we are invited to entertain a kind of hypothesis where everything seems normal to us, and yet, due to an elaborate deception, all of our beliefs about what is around us are false. At least from the perspective of mainstream epistemology, The Wachowski Brothers’ sceptical question (can we know that what we see around us isn’t just part of the Matrix?) is really just reheated cabbage.
Frank Jackson, Philip Stratton-Lake, and Mark Schroeder are not convinced by my arguments for the error theory. Neither am I. But I will argue that their objections to my arguments fail. I think my arguments for the error theory are unconvincing merely because we cannot believe the theory.
In Unbelievable Errors, I defend an error theory about all normative judgements: not only moral judgements, but also judgements about reasons for action, judgements about reasons for belief, and instrumental normative judgements. This theory says that these judgements are beliefs that ascribe normative properties, but that these properties do not exist. It therefore entails that all normative judgements are false. I also argue, however, that we cannot believe this error theory. This may seem to be a problem for the theory, but I argue that it is not. Instead, I argue, our inability to believe the theory makes it more likely to be true. In this Précis, I will give a brief overview of some of the arguments I give in the book. Whether these arguments are sound depends on details and further arguments that I cannot discuss here.
Duals of knowledge and belief
Posted on Monday, 17 Dec 2018
On the modal analysis of belief, 'S believes that p' is true iff p is
true at all possible worlds compatible with S's belief state. So
'believes' is a necessity modal. …
A ‘semantic gap’ divides two regions of language when the meanings on the one side are very different from those the other. The gap considered here divides language about the physical (quotidian or scientific, classical or quantum alike) from language about the mental—as discussed in an extensive philosophical literature over the last half-century (perhaps continuously with much older literature), which attempts to establish its existence and interpret its significance. To my mind, the gap (if perhaps not each of its alleged manifestations) genuinely exists, but the literature misinterprets its significance.
Several scholars observed that narratives about the human past are evaluated comparatively. Few attempts have been made, however, to explore how such evaluations are actually done. Here I look at a lengthy "contest" among several historiographic narratives, all constructed to make sense of another one- the biblical story of the conquest of Canaan. I conclude that the preference of such narratives can be construed as a rational choice. In particular, an easily comprehensible and emotionally evocative narrative will give way to a complex and mundane one, when the latter provides a more coherent account of the consensually accepted body of evidence. This points to a fundamental difference between historiographic narratives and fiction, contrary to some influential opinions in the philosophy of historiography. Such historiographic narratives have similarities with hypotheses and narrative explanations in natural science.
Epistemic utility theory (EUT) is generally coupled with veritism. Veritism is the view that truth is the sole fundamental epistemic value. Veritism, when paired with EUT, entails a methodological commitment: Norms of epistemic rationality are justified only if they can be derived from considerations of accuracy alone. According to EUT, then, believing truly has epistemic value, while believing falsely has epistemic disvalue. This raises the question as to how the rational believer should balance the prospect of true belief against the risk of error. A strong intuitive case can be made for a kind of epistemic conservatism—that we should disvalue error more than we value true belief. I argue that none of the ways in which advocates of veritist EUT have sought to motivate conservatism can be squared with their methodological commitments. Short of any such justification, they must therefore either abandon their most central methodological principle or else adopt a permissive line with respect to epistemic risk.
Concept theories draw on a rich tradition, ranging from Plato and Aristotle over Leibniz to Frege. Two key aspects of a theory of concepts need to be distinguished. (i) The cognitive aspect regards the role of concepts in cognition and how these enable an epistemic agent to classify and categorize reality. A concept system is sometimes considered the cornerstone and starting point of a ‘logic of thinking.’ (ii) From a metaphysical point of view, concept theory must provide an explanation of the ontological status of universals, how these combine, whether there are different modes of predication, and what it means in general for an object to fall under a concept. Both aspects will be addressed in what follows. The survey starts with a brief overview of selected problems and positions.
“Relativism does better than contextualism on several counts. First, it can explain the regularity and faultlessness of moral disagreement. If right and wrong are relative expressions, then it is obvious that moral disagreement will be a frequently recurring phenomenon.
Children are young human beings. Some children are very young human
beings. As human beings children evidently have a certain moral
status. There are things that should not be done to them for the
simple reason that they are human. At the same time children are
different from adult human beings and it seems reasonable to think
that there are things children may not do that adults are permitted to
do. In the majority of jurisdictions, for instance, children are not
allowed to vote, to marry, to buy alcohol, to have sex, or to engage
in paid employment. Equally there are things that arguably should not
be done to children because they are children, such as conscription
into military service.
In collapse theories of quantum mechanics such as the GRW theory, the measurement result is represented by the post-measurement state which is still a superposition of different result branches, although the modulus squared of the amplitude of one result branch is close to one. This leads to the tails problem. In this paper, I present a new analysis of the tails problem of collapse theories, and suggest a more complete solution to the problem. First, I argue that the tails problem exists not only in collapse theories, but also in Everett’s theory and even in Bohm’s theory. Moreover, I point out that the tails problem has two levels: the physical and mental levels, which may be called the objective and subjective tails problems, respectively. One needs to analyze not only the connection between high modulus-squared values and macro-existence, but also the connection between these values and our experience of macro-existence. Second, I briefly review the existing solutions to the objective and subjective tails problems. I argue that although the objective tails problem may be solved more directly, one needs to further investigate the psychophysical connection in order to solve the subjective tails problem. Third, I analyze how the mental state of an observer is determined by her wave function in collapse theories. It is argued that the mental content of an observer is related to the amplitude of each result branch of the superposition she is physically in, and it may be composed of all possible results. Moreover, it is conjectured that the modulus squared of the amplitude of each result branch may determine the vividness of the part of the mental content containing the result. Finally, I argue that this vividness conjecture may help solve the subjective tails problem of collapse theories.
Recent work by emotion researchers indicates that emotions have a multilevel structure. Sophisticated sentimentalists should take note of this work—for it better enables them to defend a substantive role for emotion in moral cognition. Contra May’s rationalist criticisms, emotions are not only able to carry morally relevant information but can also substantially influence moral judgment and reasoning.
We’re going to have a seminar on applied category theory here at U. C. Riverside! My students have been thinking hard about category theory for a few years, but they’ve decided it’s time to get deeper into applications. …
Thus, a body is such an entity that, if one posits a longitude on it, another longitude will be found intersecting it at a right angle, and a third longitude of these two lengths will stand as a perpendicular on the point of the previous intersection. …
Someday we might meet spacefaring aliens who engage us in (what seems to be) conversation. Some philosophers -- for example Susan Schneider and (if I may generalize his claims about superficially isomorphic robots to superficially isomorphic aliens) Ned Block -- have argued that such aliens might not really have conscious experiences. …
All of us engage in and make use of valid reasoning, but the reasoning
we actually perform differs in various ways from the inferences
studied by most (formal) logicians. Reasoning as performed by human
beings typically involves information obtained through more than one
medium. Formal logic, by contrast, has thus far been primarily
concerned with valid reasoning which is based on information in one
form only, i.e., in the form of sentences. Recently, many
philosophers, psychologists, logicians, mathematicians, and computer
scientists have become increasingly aware of the importance of
multi-modal reasoning and, moreover, much research has been undertaken
in the area of non-symbolic, especially diagrammatic, representation
systems.[ 1 ]
This entry outlines the overall directions of this new research area
and focuses on the logical status of diagrams in proofs, their
representational function and adequacy, different kinds of
diagrammatic systems, and the role of diagrams in
some snapshots from Excursion 3 tour II. Excursion 3 Tour II: It’s The Methods, Stupid
Tour II disentangles a jungle of conceptual issues at the heart of today’s statistics wars. The first stop (3.4) unearths the basis for a number of howlers and chestnuts thought to be licensed by Fisherian or N-P tests. …
Decisions are typically about outcomes that happen later in time. As such they demand comparisons of the value of outcomes now versus outcomes later. Should I buy a new car or save for retirement? Have the last piece of cake tonight or tomorrow? Lower carbon emissions now or suffer greater loss later? Intertemporal decisions have triggered hundreds of studies across many fields. Popular subjects include personal finances, addiction, nutrition, health, marketing, and environmental conservation. In many of these decisions we tend to exhibit what is called a positive time preference; that is, all else being equal, we prefer positive goods, experiences, and states of affairs to be delivered sooner rather than later. Sweets delivered to me tomorrow aren’t as valuable to me as sweets I can eat today. Descriptive and normative inquiries tackle how we make intertemporal comparisons of utility in such cases and how we should. The present paper is about the second issue, the normative question that asks how we ought to translate future utility into present utility. My focus is restricted to individuals and not societies. I want to challenge the conventional wisdom dominating the social sciences and philosophy regarding temporal discounting, the practice of discounting the value of future utility.
This is a discussion of Delia Fara’s theory of vagueness, and of its solution to the sorites paradox, criticizing some of the details of the account, but agreeing that its central insight will be a part of any solution to the problem. I also consider a wider range of philosophical puzzles that involve arguments that are structurally similar to the argument of the sorites paradox, and argue that the main ideas of her account of vagueness helps to respond to some of those puzzles.
Could spacetime be derived rather than fundamental? The question is pressing because attempts to quantize gravity have led to theories in which (arguably) there are either no, or only extremely thin, spacetime structures. Moreover, recent proposals for the interpretation of quantum mechanics have suggested that 3-dimensional space may be an ‘appearance’ derived from the 3N -dimensional space in which an N -particle wavefunction lives (cross-reference). In fact, I will largely assume a positive answer, and investigate how it could be; in particular, I want to explicate the role of philosophy in producing a satisfactory explanation of spacetime, providing a roadmap for philosophical engagement with quantum gravity. First, I will explain why such a derivation can be described as ‘emergence’.
The science fiction novel Quarantine portrays a world wherein interaction with human observers is necessary to collapse quantum wavefunctions. The author, Greg Egan, amusingly puts the emphasis on the observers being human — aliens can’t do it. Aliens are therefore at a tremendous disadvantage. As we gaze at the night sky, we are constantly collapsing alien worlds, depriving them of their branch diversity. Whole civilizations are being snuffed out by our observations! Understandably the aliens grow tired of this. In response they erect an impenetrable shield around the solar system, one that blinds us to the outside universe. This shield protects the rest of the universe from harmful human observation, locking humanity into a starless Bubble.