Archive for November, 2007

Michael Strevens Talk – Friday, 9th November

November 8, 2007

Michael Strevens will be presenting a talk entitled “Ceteris Paribus Hedges in Causal Hypotheses.” This is part of the FSU Philosophy Department colloquium series. Ideally, I’d post some sort of introductory information for the talk, but I cannot find any. A recap of the most interesting aspects of his talk will follow.


Pamela Hieronymi “The Force and Fairness of Blame”

November 6, 2007

Philosophical cowardice will not be tolerated, Sean. Look how boldly I expose my ideas for consideration. Please find fault and correct me:

Pamela Hieronymi’s central claim is that the “target charge” cannot be leveled against the judgment aspect of blame. When we sufficient reasons to find ill will in someone/some action/some state of affairs, we judge that ill will is present. I take it that our reactive attitudes then are a manifestation of our judgment toward that person. Hieronymi claims that were we to first judge that ill will is present, only to subsequently discover that the agent’s history was such that the action could not (likely, she suggests) have been otherwise, the judgment of ill will would not be unfair (the target claim suggests that the judgment would be unfair).

Assuming I have understood her correctly, I have a problem concerning ill will in humans (I have others with respect to non-humans). If S judges that P’s action (p) expresses ill will (call this belief J), only to find that p is the result of some force (largely) outside P’s control, I suggest that we can still find J unfair. If ill will is limited to humans, it is presumably limited to humans because of certain characteristics they possess that other things do not possess. If it is merely the ability to enter into mutually-regarding relationships (as Hieronymi seems to suggest), then if it be shown that a person cannot enter into a mutually-regarding relationship because of some force of (even local) determination, how is J still fair? It is certainly false, as Hieronymi suggests, but to maintain J in the face of evidence that J is false is, I suggest non-contentiously, to judge unfairly, not just inaccurately.

Note: she cashes out her response in terms of the unfairness of judgment management instead of the first-order judgment. I suggest we just say that to maintain J is unfair and it’s not at all clear what Hieronymi has gained.

On the Role of Intuitions in Philosophy

November 2, 2007

I have to confess that I do not know (in any sense of the term) what the role of intuitions are in philosophy. In the realm of epistemology, the recent work of Michael Bishop and J.D. Trout has called into question the value of some of those intuitions philosophers so dearly treasure. I suppose I’m actually willing to say that intuitions matter more in certain branches of philosophy (epistemology) than in others (say, ethics), while still maintaining that, all things considered, intuitions count for very little. On the practical side: we obviously employ our (philosophical) intuitions regularly as a kind of first wave of criticism for a view. At the very least, I think that most philosophers take intuitions to provide prima facie evidence for accepting or rejecting a given view.

So here is a case from a paper entitled “A Defense of the Use of Intuitions in Philosophy,” available on Ernie Sosa’s web site.
I believe it comes from some of the studies cited by Weinberg, Nichols, and Stich’s “Normativity and Epistemic Intuitions”:

It’s clear that smoking cigarettes increases the likelihood of getting cancer. However, there is now a great deal of evidence that just using nicotine by itself without smoking (for instance, by taking a nicotine pill), does not increase the likelihood of getting cancer. Jim knows about this evidence and as a result, he believes that using nicotine does not increase the likelihood of getting cancer. It is possible that the tobacco companies dishonestly made up and publicized this evidence that using nicotine does not increase the likelihood of cancer, and that the evidence is really false and misleading. Now, the tobacco companies did not actually make up this evidence, but Jim is not aware of this fact. Does Jim really know that using nicotine doesn’t increase the likelihood of getting cancer, or does he only believe it?


Thoughts? Intuitions? Knowledges?

Chat on Virtue

November 1, 2007

Some of us will be attending a departmental chat on virtue scheduled for Friday. No one cares about virtue, so why do I post this? Well, it turns out that people do care about virtue. In fact, I’m one of those people. Additionally, I find the abstract for the talk bold, perhaps misguided, and treading dangerously close to hallowed ground. The abstract follows, sic:

In this paper I intend to salvage virtue, but first, I will criticize neo-aristotelan perfectionism, the most recent effort to revive it. Second, I will review recent research in the field of positive psychology. Third, I will examine recent research on character strengths and virtues and attempt to alter perfectionism to accommodate and incorporate this research. This will depend, I suspect, on a substantive account of well being which accommodates the ‘gratifying’ virtues. Fourth, I will discuss research on affective forecasting. I will examine the theoretical foundations of this research. Fifth, I will propose my own unique account of well-being which is informed by, and can help us interpret the research on, affective forecasting. In the end, I will defend a form of perfectionism based on an objectivist account of well-being which takes into account our capacities and abilities and provides us with personalized positive prescriptions, a moral theory that can tell us who we should be, what we should do, and why; I call this theory personal perfectionism.

Thoughts: positive psychology and ethics? Sounds interesting in a dangerous sort of way. I’m afraid we’re going to see something along the lines of The Good Samaritan experiments, which will make me weep because I cannot believe that people still find this sort of thing compelling. Furthermore, this is a 20-30 minute talk. That outline is more appropriate to a lengthy tome-sized opus.