Here you can find out about the latest research from members of the department.
Walsh, D.M., Ariew, A., Matthen, M. (2017), "Four Pillars of Statisticalism", Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology, Vol. 9(1), pp. 1-18.
Ariew, A., Rice, C., Rohwer, Y. (2015), "Autonomous Statistical Explanations and Natural Selection”, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 66 (3), pp. 605-634.
Title: In Defense of Proper Functionalism: Cognitive Science Takes on Swampman
Publication Information: Coauthored with Andrew Moon. Forthcoming in Synthese
Abstract: According to proper functionalist theories of warrant, a belief is warranted only if it is formed by cognitive faculties that are properly functioning according to a good, truth-aimed design plan, one that is often thought to be specified either by intentional design or by natural selection. A formidable challenge to proper functionalist theories is the Swampman objection, according to which there are scenarios involving creatures who have warranted beliefs but whose cognitive faculties are not properly functioning, or are poorly designed, or are not aimed at truth. In this paper, we draw lessons from cognitive science in order to develop a novel argument for the conclusion that the Swampman objection fails against proper functionalist theories of warrant. Our argument not only shows that the underlying, central intuition motivating Swampman-like scenarios is false but also motivates proper function as a necessary condition for warrant, thereby lending support to the claim that any theory of knowledge that lacks a proper function requirement is false.
Link to Penultimate Draft: https://kennethboyce.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/in-defense-of-proper-functionalism3.pdf
Title: Multi-Peer Disagreement and the Preface Paradox
Publication Information: Coauthored with Allan Hazlett. Ratio, 29, 2016, pp. 29-41.
Abstract: The problem of multi-peer disagreement concerns the reasonable response to a situation in which you believe P1 … Pn and disagree with a group of ‘epistemic peers’ of yours, who believe ~P1 … ~Pn, respectively. However, the problem of multi-peer disagreement is a variant on the preface paradox; because of this (pace van Inwagen) the problem poses no challenge to the so-called ‘steadfast view’ in the epistemology of disagreement, on which it is sometimes reasonable to believe P in the face of peer disagreement about P. After some terminology is defined (§1), van Inwagen’s challenge to the steadfast view will be presented (§2). The preface paradox will then be presented and diagnosed (§3), and it will be argued that van Inwagen’s challenge relies on the same principle that generates the preface paradox (§4). The reasonable response to multi-peer disagreement will be discussed (§5), and an objection addressed (§6).
Link to Penultimate Draft: https://kennethboyce.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/multi-peer-disagreement-and-the-preface-paradox.pdf
Published version: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/rati.12075/abstract
Thinking About Different Nonexistents Of The Same Kind. (2015). Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Online first DOI: 10.1111/phpr.12196.
Abstract: How is it that, as fiction readers, we are nonplussed by J. K Rowling's prescription to imagine Ronan, Bane, and Magorian, three different centaurs of the Forbidden Forrest at Hogwarts? It is usually held in the philosophical literature on fictional discourse that singular imaginings of fictional objects are impossible, given the blatant nonexistent of such objects. In this paper, I have a dual purpose: (i) on the one hand, to show that, without being committed to Meinongeanism, we can explain the phenomenon of singular imaginings of different nonexistents of the same (fictional) kind; (ii) while, at the same time, to attribute this position to Thomas Reid, thus correcting some misunderstandings of his view on imagination.
Perceiving Bodies Immediately: Thomas Reid's Insight. (2015). History of Philosophy Quarterly 32, 19-36
Abstract: In An Inquiry into the Human Mind and in Essays on Intellectual Powers, Thomas Reid discusses what kinds of things perceivers are related to in perception. Are these things qualities of bodies, the bodies themselves, or both? This question places him in a long tradition of trying to understand how human perception works in connecting us with the external world. It is still an open question in the philosophy of perception whether the human perceptual system is providing us with representations as of bodies or only as of their properties. My project in this article is to explain how, on Reid’s view, we can have perceptual representations as of bodies. This, in turn, enables him to argue that we have a robust understanding of the world around us, an understanding that would be missing if our perceptual system supplied us with only representations as of free-floating properties of objects.
Title: "The Special Ability View of Knowledge-How"
Journal: Philosophical Studies.
Published in “Online First” February, 2015; Published in print edition December 2015, v. 172, #12, pp. 3191-3209. The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11098-015-0464-7
Propositionalism explains the nature of knowledge-how as follows:
P: To know how to j is to stand in a special propositional attitude relation to propositions about how to j.
To know how to ride a bike is to have the required propositional attitude to propositions about how to do so. Dispositionalism offers an alternative view.
D: To know how to j is to stand in a behavioral-dispositional relation, a being-able-to relation, to j-ing.
To know how to ride a bike is to have an ability to do so in the form of a complex disposition to behave in ways that constitute bike riding. Objectualism presents a third option.
O: To know how to j is to stand in a non-propositional, non-behavioral-dispositional objective attitude relation to a way of j-ing.
To know how to ride a bike is to have an objectual attitude, perhaps a form of knowledge of, to a way of doing so.
Dispositionalism is often dismissed on the basis of two criticisms designed to show its shortcomings relative to Propositionalism and Objectualism. According to the Epistemic Improvement Objection, Dispositionalism cannot account for the fact that gaining knowledge-how is an improvement in our epistemic state. According to the Modified Ability Objection, it cannot account for the fact that being able to do something is neither necessary nor sufficient for knowing how to do it. I develop a form of Dispositionalism, the Special Ability View, that avoids both objections.
“Knowing What Things Look Like,” forthcoming in The Philosophical Review.
Abstract: Walking through the supermarket, I see the avocados. I know they are avocados. Similarly, if you see a pumpkin on my office desk, you can know it’s a pumpkin from its looks. The phenomenology in such cases is that of “just seeing” that such and such. This phenomenology might suggest that the knowledge gained is immediate. This paper argues, to the contrary, that in these target cases, the knowledge is mediate, depending as it does on one’s knowledge of what the relevant kind of thing looks like. To make the case requires examining the nature of knowing what Fs look like. Is such knowledge to be understood as knowledge of a fact, or rather as a kind of ability? From the conclusion that the knowledge in the target cases is not immediate, the paper concludes that perception does not afford us immediate knowledge concerning objects’ kinds.
“Looks and Perceptual Justification,” forthcoming in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
Abstract: Imagine I hold up a Granny Smith apple for all to see. You would thereby gain justified beliefs that it was green, that it was apple, and that it is a Granny Smith apple. Under classical foundationalism, such simple visual beliefs are mediately justified on the basis of reasons concerning your experience. Under dogmatism, some or all of these beliefs are justified immediately by your experience and not by reasons you possess. This paper argues for what I call the looks view of the justification of simple visual beliefs. According to the looks view, such beliefs are mediately justified on the basis of reasons concerning how the relevant things look. Unlike under classical foundationalism, under the looks view as I develop it, these reasons are public. They are public with respect to both their content and possession: with respect to content, they are not about ourselves and our experiences, and with respect to their possession, many people can have the very same looks-related reasons.
“In Defense Of A Realization Formulation Of Physicalism”, Topoi, Special Issue, “The Character of Physicalism”, edited by Andreas Elpidorou (forthcoming).
Abstract: In earlier work, I proposed and defended a formulation of physicalism that was distinctive in appealing to a carefully-defined relation of physical realization (Melnyk 2003). Various philosophers (Robert Francescotti, Daniel Stoljar, Carl Gillett, Susan Schneider) have since presented various challenges to this formulation. In the present paper, I aim to show that these challenges can be overcome. https://www.academia.edu/25115402/In_Defense_Of_A_Realization_Formulation_Of_Physicalism_penultimate_draft_
“Grounding And The Formulation Of Physicalism” in K. Aizawa and C. Gillett (eds.), Scientific Composition and Metaphysical Grounding. London: Palgrave-Macmillan (forthcoming).
Abstract: Grounding is all the rage in analytical metaphysics. But here I give three reasons for not appealing to a primitive relation of grounding in formulating physicalism. (1) It probably can't do the key job it would need to do. (2) We don't need it, since we already have realization. (3) It is probably not even consistent with physicalism. https://www.academia.edu/15154516/Grounding_And_The_Formulation_Of_Physicalism_penultimate_draft_
“The Scientific Evidence For Materialism About Pains”, in Steven M. Miller (ed.) The Constitution of Phenomenal Consciousness: Toward a Science and Theory (John Benjamins Publishing Co., 2015), pp. 310-329.
Abstract: This paper argues in unprecedented empirical and philosophical detail that, given only what science has discovered about pain, we should prefer the materialist hypothesis that pains are purely material over the dualist hypothesis that they are immaterial. The empirical findings cited provide strong evidence for the thesis of empirical supervenience: that to every sort of introspectible change over time in pains, or variation among pains at a time, there corresponds in fact a certain sort of simultaneous neural change over time, or variation at a time. The empirical supervenience of pain on the neural is shown in turn to favor the hypothesis that pains are, in a sense that is made precise, purely material. https://www.academia.edu/14213253/The_Scientific_Evidence_For_Materialism_About_Pain_penultimate_draft_
“Physicalism.” Oxford Bibliographies in Philosophy. Ed. Duncan Pritchard. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015-04-29.
Abstract: A substantial, annotated bibliography on physicalism in the sense of a comprehensive view about the nature of contingent reality. (Link).
The Logic of Indexicals. Synthese. 192 (6) (2015): 1839-1860. (penultimate draft)
Abstract: Since Kaplan first provided a logic for context-sensitive expressions, it has been thought that the only way to construct a logic for indexicals is to restrict it to arguments which take place in a single context -- that is, instantaneous arguments, uttered by a single speaker, in a single place, etc. In this paper, I propose a logic which does away with these restrictions, and thus places arguments where they belong, in real world conversations. The central innovation is that validity depends not just on the sentences in the argument, but also on certain abstract relations between contexts. This enrichment of the notion of logical form leads to some seemingly counter-intuitive results: a sequence of sentences may make up a valid argument in one sequence of contexts, and an invalid one in another such sequence. I argue that this is an unavoidable result of context sensitivity in general, and of the nature of indexicals in particular, and that reflection on such examples will lead us to a better understanding of the idea of applying logic to context sensitive expressions, and thus to natural language in general.
Three Views About Propositions. Critical Notice About New Thinking About Propositions by King et al. Forthcoming in Analysis. (penultimate draft)
King, Soames, and Speaks's New Thinking about Propositions provides three views about what propositions are, how we have cognitive access to them, how they manage to be about things, and what their role ought to be in philosophy. What unites all authors is their rejection of the claim that propositions exist (and represent) independently of thinking agents, and a desire to replace this part of the traditional view with an empirically more plausible view. I suspect that this book will serve to keep interest in these topics at high levels for quite a while.
Abstract: The concept of a person is, or ought to be, central to the philosophy of social science. Traditionally, investigations into the structure of this concept have been conducted on a largely a priori basis. Recently, however, with the advent of research in experimental philosophy, the methodological landscape has begun to change. In this paper I report findings from two experimental studies exploring how laypeople think about the relationship between two dimensions of two aspects of personhood: mindedness (cognition, affect) and moral status (agency, patiency).
Abstract: Over the past few decades the social sciences have taken a biological turn, and as a result, our understanding of ourselves as social beings has been undergoing a profound transformation. In this essay — the introduction to a themed special issue on philosophical approaches to social neuroscience — I consider some of the implications of this development, with attention to three domains in which findings from social neuroscience have been brought to bear on long-standing philosophical issues: folk psychology, consciousness, and morality.
“Decision Theory without Finite Standard Expected Value”, with Luc Lauwers,Economics and Philosophy, forthcoming 2016.
“Self-Defense against Rights-Intrusions (Non-Culpable and Culpable)” in The Ethics of Self-Defense, edited by Christian Coons and Michael Eric Weber (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2016).
“Intrinsic Utility’s Compositionality.” 2015. Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1: 545–563.
Visiting and Adjunct Faculty
Abstract: This paper raises a new interpretive puzzle concerning Socrates’ attitude towards truth in the Phaedo. At one point Socrates seems to advocate that he is justified in trying to convince himself that the soul is immortal and destined for a better place regardless of whether or not these claims are true, but that Cebes and Simmias should relentlessly pursue the truth about the very same matter. This raises the question: Why might Socrates believe that he will benefit from believing things about death irrespective of the truth, but that Cebes and Simmias will not? Why should they continue pursuing the truth? This paper argues that the relevant difference between Socrates and his friends is that Socrates is a fully accomplished philosopher, while his friends are not. This, I argue, makes Socrates an epistemic authority, and it is in virtue of being an epistemic authority that he is justified in not pursuing the truth about death. The upshot of this paper is that sometimes the demands of living well require that we abandon the pursuit of truth and knowledge.
“Re-thinking the Matter: Organians are Still Organisms,” in The Ultimate Star Trek and Philosophy: The Search for Socrates, eds. Kevin S. Decker and Jason T. Eberl (2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.), pp. 213-22.
Abstract: Experience is ontologically basic in Alfred North Whitehead’s process metaphysics. Any dynamic network of experience—whether electron, starship crew member, or Borg— is an organism. What distinguishes higher-order from lower-order organisms is the development of consciousness: centralized, purposeful activity made possible by a sufficiently complex environment. However, this distinction does not entail that low-level organisms are devoid of mental functions, nor does it allow that higher-level organisms exist without certain physical functions. This model allows us to re-cast the suggestion that penultimate evolution of a corporeal species would be realized in non-corporeal existence. In fact, if we examine entities from the Star Trek universe such as the Organians, the Thasians, and the Q closely, it becomes evident that they do retain physical functionality in the sense intended here. So perhaps the operative question is not whether the most highly evolved species would be non-corporeal; the better question may be whether advanced evolution of conscious organisms would involve greater control over some or all of their physical functions, including both the way in which they interact with their environment and the very scope of the environment in which they act. It seems plausible that the most highly evolved beings of the Star Trek universe should not be judged as hyper-advanced by virtue of their being non-corporeal, but rather by virtue of having a highly enhanced capacity for creating novel experiences from what the universe presents to them.
Nelson, Dustin (2016). “Defending an Expressivist Account of Reasons.” Southwest Philosophy Review, 32 (1).
Abstract: When philosophers reflect on the motivations and actions of others, we often invoke the language of reasons to evaluate and explain those actions. We might say, for instance, that the unnecessary pain a puppy would experience from being kicked is a reason to refrain from kicking a puppy. However, by talking this way, it makes it seem as if there is some fact of the matter – a normative fact. But, if such normative facts are similar to other facts about the world and exist independently of us, then this makes them a bit mysterious. Simon Blackburn avoids this mystery by providing an expressivist account of reasons talk. R. Jay Wallace, however, contends that Blackburn’s account is inadequate. I argue that Wallace’s criticism is the result of interpreting Blackburn’s account as an alternative to our reasons talk instead of as an explanation of it; and this is a mistake.