Oxford Handbook of Skepticism edited by John Greco (Oxford University Press) In the history of philosophical thought, few themes loom as large as skepticism. Skepticism has been the most visible and important part of debates about knowledge. Skepticism at its most basic questions our cognitive achievements and challenges our ability to obtain reliable knowledge, casting doubt on our attempts to seek and understand the truth about everything from ethics to other minds, religious belief, and even the underlying structure of matter and reality. Since Descartes, the defense of knowledge against skepticism has been one of the primary tasks not just of epistemology but philosophy itself.
The Oxford Handbook of Skepticism features twenty-six newly commissioned chapters by top figures in the field. Part One contains articles explaining important kinds of skeptical reasoning. Part Two focuses on responses to skeptical arguments. Part Three concentrates on important contemporary issues revolving around skepticism. As the first volume of its kind, the articles make significant contributions to the debate on skepticism.
Excerpt: Philosophers have long been concerned with various kinds of skepticism. They have explored reasons for and against various skeptical positions, and they have argued about the consequences of adopting various skeptical stances. Today's philosophers are no exception. In fact, in recent years there has been renewed interest in skepticism and skeptical arguments. New work has been done on the nature and structure of various skeptical arguments and on historically important responses to skepticism. Contemporary epistemologists have also crafted new strategies for responding to skepticism, often drawing on recent developments in other fields, such as metaphysics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language.
This volume explores the results of this new work. Part I of the volume looks at several varieties of skepticism, including some important varieties of skeptical argument. Part II examines some historically important responses to skepticism, such as Berkeley's idealism, Reid's "commonsense" view, and Peirce's pragmatism. Part III reviews several contemporary issues, including some new strategies for responding to skepticism of various sorts. Each chapter is self-contained and offers a detailed but accessible treatment of its topic. The volume as a whole will serve as a fairly comprehensive introduction to skeptical thought and thought about skepticism.
The remainder of this introduction is structured as follows. Section 1 briefly discusses some varieties of skepticism. Section 2 offers some remarks about how skepticism has been approached in different philosophical periods. Section 3 frames skepticism as a theoretical problem, as is the usual approach today.
VARIETIES OF SKEPTICISM
Skepticism involves doubt, or at least a reluctance to commit. If I am skeptical about what my government is telling me about the war, then I have my doubts that the government's claims are true. If you are skeptical that the Red Sox will win the pennant, then you have your doubts that they will. Or perhaps you are a rabid Red Sox fan and psychologically incapable of entertaining doubts about your team's chances. Nevertheless, you might be reluctant to commit, for example with a bet.
These kinds of skepticism are limited in scope and, as such, are commonplace. Skepticism is of philosophical interest when it becomes more general. For example, some people are moral skeptics, claiming that no one can know what is right or wrong. Other people are religious skeptics, claiming that no one can know what God is like, what God wills, or whether God exists at all. Here we have more general claims, about the possibility of a general kind of knowledge: "There is no moral knowledge," or "There is no knowledge of God." Skepticism can be more general still. Some skeptics claim that there is no knowledge beyond how things appear, or of the world "outside our minds." Even more generally, some skeptics claim that there is no knowledge at all.
The different kinds of skepticism just mentioned differ in their scope. Skeptical positions can also differ in their degree. For example, some skeptics claim that there is no knowledge of some general kind. Others claim, less strongly, that there is no certainty. Others claim, more strongly, that there is no reasonable or rationally preferable belief. Varieties of skepticism can also differ in their "level." Thus some skeptics claim that no one knows, whereas others claim that no one knows that one knows. All these varieties will be discussed in the chapters that follow.
SKEPTICISM THROUGH THE AGES
In the ancient world, skepticism was recommended as a way of life. The general claim was that living with an attitude of skeptical doubt is superior to living with an attitude of dogmatic certainty. This recommendation might be framed in practical terms: a life lived in skeptical doubt is happier than a life lived in dogmatic certitude, perhaps because skepticism involves a more peaceful or tranquil state of mind. Alternatively, the recommendation might be framed as moral: a skeptical life is morally superior to a dogmatic one, perhaps because the former is more open-minded and tolerant. Ironically, skepticism in the modern world (i.e., the 1600s through the 1800s) was more often treated as a practical problem. Skeptical doubt was considered a state of mind to be avoided or overcome, and considerable philosophical energy was put into strategies for doing so.
Whatever the merits of the ancient and modern approaches, nowadays skepticism is more often framed as a theoretical problem than as a practical or moral one. For contemporary philosophers, skepticism is of interest insofar as there are good arguments or reasons for thinking that skepticism might be true. Contemporary philosophers tend to focus on the merits of those arguments rather than on the practical or moral value of a skeptical way of life. The chapters in this volume reflect this contemporary point of view. That is, their emphasis is on the merits of skeptical arguments or skeptical reasoning. Their concern is to closely consider the best arguments for skepticism and to explore how best to respond to them.
How should we understand this shift toward the theoretical and away from the practical and moral? First, it should be noted that this is a shift in emphasis. Certainly, ancient and modern writers were concerned with the merits of skeptical arguments and with the truth or falsity of skeptical conclusions. And certainly, contemporary writers, including ones in this volume, are concerned with the moral and practical consequences of various forms of skepticism. Second, the shift to a theoretical focus can be partly understood as professional: contemporary philosophers, especially in English-speaking traditions, take arguments to be the proper focus of philosophical inquiry in general. Qua philosophers, they consider themselves better qualified to examine and evaluate arguments than to offer psychological advice or recommendations for living.
However, there is perhaps a more important explanation for the shift to a theoretical focus. Namely, contemporary philosophers tend to be unimpressed with both the ancient recommendations and the modern worries. Put differently, contemporary philosophers tend to be unimpressed with the efficacy of skeptical arguments either to engender doubt or to inspire behavior. This attitude can be traced back to Hume, who noted that his skeptical doubts held sway only in the study. The activities of ordinary life are sufficient to dispel skeptical doubt. In a famous passage, Hume writes:
The intense view of these manifold contradictions and imperfections in human reason has so wrought upon me, and heated my brain, that I am ready to reject all belief and reasoning, and can look upon no opinion even as more probable or likely than another.... Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, nature herself suffices for that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium.... I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hour's amusement, I wou'd return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strain'd, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther.
(A Treatise of Human Nature, bk.i, pt.4, sec.7)
More generally, and again following Hume, contemporary philosophers hold "reason" in less regard than did many of their ancient or modern counterparts. Perhaps most important, the power of reason to control thought and action is seen as far more restricted. From this general point of view, the impotence of skeptical reasoning is merely a special case.
SKEPTICISM AS A THEORETICAL PROBLEM
Suppose, then, that skepticism is more properly of theoretical interest than of moral or practical interest. Or less strongly, suppose that skepticism is primarily of theoretical interest. What does it mean to say that skepticism is theoretically interesting? One thing that it means has already been suggested: skepticism is theoretically interesting (or philosophically interesting) insofar as there are good arguments that skepticism might be true. Suppose that someone were to claim that no one knows anything. Or somewhat less radically, that you do not know that you have two hands, or that there is a table in front of you. Such claims by themselves would not be interesting. But suppose that there were good reasons for thinking I that no one knows anything, or that you do not know that you have two hands. That is, suppose that there were reasons that looked good, and that it was not obvious where or why they were wrong. Now that would be interesting even if we were not inclined to take the skeptical claims seriously. It would be interesting to examine the skeptical reasons more closely and to see if we could find a mistake in them. Of course, there is a flip side to this: having seen the skeptical arguments in question, some people (including some in this volume) will want to take some skeptical claims very seriously, and will want to defend the arguments in their favor.
There is another sense in which skepticism is theoretically interesting. As things turn out, responding to skeptical arguments often requires substantive theoretical commitments. Suppose that we are faced with a skeptical argument that concludes that no one knows anything. Somewhat less radically, suppose that we are faced with an argument that no one knows right from wrong, or that other persons exist, or that any scientific claim is true. Presumably something is wrong with any such skeptical argument. But what is wrong? Where exactly is the mistake? In many cases, that turns out to be very hard to say. And in trying to say, philosophers end up making surprising and controversial philosophical claims—they make claims about the nature of reality, the nature of mind, the nature of morality, and much more. To a surprising extent, the history of philosophy is the history of philosophical theory in response to skeptical arguments. Put differently, thinking about skepticism inspires philosophical theory. As we will see in the chapters to come, it can inspire epistemology, ontology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, moral philosophy, and philosophy of religion. That being the case, skepticism is interesting indeed.
The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory edited by John S. Dryzek, Bonnie Honig, Anne Philips (Oxford Handbooks of Political Science: Oxford University Press) The Oxford Handbooks of Political Science is a ten-volume set of reference books offering authoritative and engaging critical overviews of the state of political science. This volume, The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory, provides comprehensive and critical coverage of the lively and contested field of political theory, and will help set the agenda for the field for years to come. Long recognized as one of the main branches of political science, political theory has in recent years burgeoned in many different directions. Forty-five chapters by distinguished political theorists look at the state of the field, where it has been in the recent past, and where it is likely to go in future. They examine political theory's edges as well as its core, the globalizing context of the field, and the challenges presented by social, economic, and technological changes. More
The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy by Frank Jackson, Michael Smith (Oxford Handbooks: Oxford University Press) is the definitive guide to what's going on in this lively and fascinating subject. Jackson and Smith, themselves two of the world's most eminent philosophers, have assembled more than thirty distinguished scholars to contribute incisive and up-to-date critical surveys of the principal areas of research. The coverage is broad, with sections devoted to moral philosophy, social and political philosophy, philosophy of mind and action, philosophy of language, metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of the sciences. This Handbook will be a rich source of insight and stimulation for philosophers, students of philosophy, and for people working in other disciplines of the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, who are interested in the state of philosophy today
David Albert, Linda Barclay, Geoffrey Brennan, Nancy Cartwright and Anna Alexandrova, Martin Davies, Michael Devitt, John M. Doris, Julia Driver, David Estlund, Ned Hall, Paul Horwich, Lloyd Humberstone, Frank Jackson, Mark Johnston, Karen Jones, Philip Kitcher, Rae Langton, M. G. F. Martin, Alfred R. Mele, D. H. Mellor, Christopher Peacocke, Philip Pettit, Ian Rumfitt, Gabriel Segal, Michael Smith, Scott Soames, Dan Sperber, Stephen P. Stich, Jeremy Waldron, R. Jay Wallace, Timothy Williamson, and Deirdre Wilson.
When Peter Momtchiloff invited us to edit The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy we sat down (over a glass of wine, truth be known) and asked ourselves how best to produce a volume that, while not being an encyclopedia, was not a handbook of one or another area of philosophy. We wanted a volume that would give readers a sense of the range and excitement of contemporary analytic philosophy (excluding formal logic) and would inform them of some of the most interesting recent developments, while being something they could hold in one hand or maybe cradle in two.
We also wanted a volume that would be a contribution to the subject. With this in mind, we invited our contributors to take the opportunity to set agendas for future discussions of the subject matters of their chapters. They were asked to produce chapters that gave a good sense of the philosophical geography of their assigned topic, but we gave them maximum flexibility in how to structure their chapters and made it clear that they were free to focus the discussion on the issues they judged to be most central and to express their own opinions. We were looking not for a mini-encyclopedia but, if you like, for a series of very high-quality opinion pieces. We were delighted with the response. Reading the chapters as they came in was an education in the contemporary philosophical scene for both of us.
Although we gave our contributors maximum flexibility, we were intrusive when it came to the topics within the various parts (moral philosophy, social and political philosophy, philosophy of mind and action, philosophy of language, metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of the sciences). For each part we made a judgement concerning the topics of most interest and fertility, and of course drew on our knowledge of who was working on what. For example, in the philosophy of the sciences it seemed to us that realism, laws, physics, and biology were four topics that stood out for inclusion, and we were delighted to attract four major players on those topics as contributors. Similar remarks apply to the other parts.
An example of where we drew on our knowledge of who was working on what is the chapter by John Doris and Stephen Stich, 'As a Matter of Fact: Empirical Perspectives on Ethics. We had heard versions of the challenging ideas in this chapter as presentations. But in fact most of the invitations to our contributors were prompted in one way or another by personal acquaintance with their work. There are also a number of chapters that we knew were in someone's head and that what was needed to make the highly desirable transfer from head to page was the right invitation.
CONTENTS: Part I MORAL PHILOSOPHY: 1. Meta-Ethics by Michael Smith; 2. Normative Ethics by Julia Driver; 3. Moral Epistemology by Karen Jones; 4. Moral Psychology by R. Jay Wallace; 5. As a Matter of Fact: Empirical Perspectives On Ethics by John M. Doris And Stephen P. Stich;
Part II SOCIAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY: 6. Liberalism and Diversity by Linda Barclay; 7. Law by Jeremy Waldron; 8. Democratic Theory by David Estlund; 9. Feminism in Philosophy by Rae Langton; 10. The Feasibility Issue by Geoffrey Brennan and Philip Pettit;
Part III PHILOSOPHY OF MIND AND ACTION: 11. Intentionality by Gabriel Segal; 12. Consciousness by Frank Jackson; 13. Action by Alfred R. Mele; 14. Cognitive Science by Martin Davies;
Part IV PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE: 15. Reference and Description by Scott Soames; 16. Meaning and Understanding by Ian Rumfitt; 17. Truth by Paul Horwich; 18. Pragmatics by Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson;
Part V METAPHYSICS: 19. Causation by Ned Hall; 20. Modality by Lloyd Humberstone; 21. Time by D. H. Mellor; 22. Constitution by Mark Johnston;
Part VI EPISTEMOLOGY: 23. Knowledge and Scepticism by Timothy Williamson; 24. Perception by M. G. F. Martin; 25. The A Priori by Christopher Peacocke;
Part VII PHILOSOPHY OF THE SCIENCES: 26. Scientific Realism by Michael Devitt: 27. Laws by Nancy Cartwright and Anna Alexandrova with Sophia Efstathiou, Andrew Hamilton, and Ioan Muntean; 28. Philosophy of Biology by Philip Kitcher; 29. The Foundations of Physics by David Albert.
When confronted with such a rich volume of thoughtful survey essays in contemporary Anglophone philosophy, it is hard not to wish that other topics could also have been included. Given that the volume in is 900 pages I think we can forgive the editors need for selectivity and in some cases brevity. Given the lack of a survey introduction to the seven parts of the book, I will offer my own insights into what the authors are saying in these essays that makes them noteworthy in their own right. Michael Smith makes the case that metaethics should adopt as a working hypothesis that moral norms should be reduced to or guided by the norms of reason and rationality. This view is consequentialist and cognitive, embedding so to speak that goods and dads are not morally neutral but our volume by their rationality. Driver also champions consequentialism in her thoughtful survey of normative ethics. She also sees that insights from psychology may reveal more consistent explaniations and have yet to be discovered. Karen Jones takes a general look at Moral Epistemology, giving the impression of being for asymmetrical skepticism as a basis for proceeding with the theory of acceptance and justified belief as the central issue in moral epistemology. The recent revival of intuitionism is touched upon but she makes the strongest case for realist coherentism and contextualism but always within the asymmetrical skeptics noncommittal to avowal. Wallace offers a fine survey of the principal dimensions at Moral Psychology dealing with motivation and desire, reasons and desires, moral motivation, identification, alienation, and autonomy, weakness and strength of will and moral emotions. John Doris and Stephen Stich examine four central topics of ethical theory where empirical claims are prominent: character, moral motivation, moral disagreement, and thought experiments. They argue that consideration of work in the biological, behavioral, and social sciences promises substantial and philosophical contributions to the controversy surrounding such topics as virtue ethics, internalism, moral realism, and moral responsibility. If we except there are arguments as successful they have offered a general methodological standard for philosophical ethics to interface with the human sciences.
Part two deals with social and political philosophy. Linda Barclay deals with liberalism inherent embrace of cultural diversity.
The Oxford Handbook of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law edited by Jules Coleman, Scott J. Shapiro (Oxford University Press) (paperback) brings together specially commissioned essays by twenty-seven of the foremost legal theorists currently writing, to provide a state of the art overview of jurisprudential scholarship. Each author presents an account of the contending views and scholarly debates animating their field of enquiry as well as setting the agenda for further study. This landmark publication will be essential reading for anyone working in legal theory and of interest to legal scholars generally, philosophers and legal theorists looking for a way in to understand current jurisprudential thinking.
The Oxford Handbook of Practical Ethics edited by Hugh
(Oxford University Press) Each title in this series offers an authoritative and
up-to-date survey of research in a particular subject area. Specially
commissioned essays from leading figures in the discipline give critical
examinations of the progress and direction of debates. The series provides
scholars and graduate students with compelling new perspectives upon a wide
range of subjects in the humanities and social sciences. This is a guide to
current thought on ethical issues in all areas of human activity - personal,
medical, sexual, social, political, judicial, and international, from the
natural world to the world of business. Twenty-eight topics are covered in
specially written surveys by leading figures in their fields: each gives an
authoritative map of the ethical terrain, explaining how the debate has
developed in recent years, engaging critically with the most notable work in the
area, and pointing directions for future work.
JThe Oxford Handbook of Practical Ethics is a lively and authoritative guide to current thought about ethical issues in all areas of human activity--personal, medical, sexual, social, political, judicial, and international, from the natural world to the world of business. Twenty-eight topics are covered in specially written surveys by leading figures in their fields: each gives an authoritative map of the ethical terrain, explaining how the debate has developed in recent years, engaging critically with the most notable work in the area, and pointing directions for future work. The Handbook will be essential reading, and a fascinating resource of ideas and information, for academics and students across a wide range of disciplines.
The Oxford Handbook of Practical Ethics edited by Hugh
(Oxford University Press) Each title in this series offers an authoritative and
up-to-date survey of research in a particular subject area. Specially
commissioned essays from leading figures in the discipline give critical
examinations of the progress and direction of debates. The series provides
scholars and graduate students with compelling new perspectives upon a wide
range of subjects in the humanities and social sciences. This is a guide to
current thought on ethical issues in all areas of human activity - personal,
medical, sexual, social, political, judicial, and international, from the
natural world to the world of business. Twenty-eight topics are covered in
specially written surveys by leading figures in their fields: each gives an
authoritative map of the ethical terrain, explaining how the debate has
developed in recent years, engaging critically with the most notable work in the
area, and pointing directions for future work.
The Oxford Handbooks are designed for professionals and graduate students—not (primarily) for undergraduates or the general public. Each handbook will include chapters profiling and evaluating the current work in some segment of a professional field. Taken as a whole, each will give professionals a firm understanding of the current status of work within that field. The Oxford Handbook of Practical Ethics is one of the first philosophy books in that series. It includes twenty-eight lengthy chapters on key issues in practical ethics. In each case the editor has invited authors who can not only map the conceptual territory, but are themselves active explorers on that landscape. The plan is to provide a handbook that allows professionals and graduate students who want to familiarize themselves with a practical ethical issue to have one chapter that provides that relevant background, and that gives them a sense of the main moves and main participants in that debate, while also advancing that debate.
To provide some structure to the volume, the editor arranged chapters into six broad categories running the gamut from the intensely personal through the social to the international: Our Personal Lives, Moral Status, Equality, The Just Society, Justice and International Relations, and Life and Death. This reveals the range of issues that properly come under the rubric of ‘practical ethics’. However, we should not take these categories too seriously; after all, they do not carve the moral universe at its joints. There are alternative schemes the editor could have used, schemes that would also have made sense.
Certainly Lafollette does not want to beg too many practical or theoretical questions by this categorization. For instance, by placing abortion in the category called `Moral Status, the editor is not, for instance, merely assuming the `right-to-life' position. He might have placed it in the `Equality' part, but then it might have seemed that he was begging the question in favor of the `right-to-choose' position. In the end, Lafollette decided to categorize abortion as he did largely because of historical considerations—that this is the way, rightly or wrongly, that the problem was first characterized. That does not mean that characterization is correct. It does mean, however, that we can best understand the debate by first understanding its history, even if we eventually conclude that the history was misguided. Minimally, we should understand that any adequate `solution' to the issue must address both types of considerations, even if it is only to argue that some of them are morally irrelevant.
Likewise, by putting war under `Life and Death' the editor does not mean to deny that it is also or even primarily a question of `Justice and International Relations, or even of `Equality. Lafollette put it there because one crucial set of issues we must address to resolve this issue comprises issues it shares with euthanasia and capital punishment. But it certainly does not exhaust the issues one must resolve to think morally about war.
Lafollette does not find this overlap either confusing or undesirable. Rather, he ses this as one important indication of the extent`to which (and the ways in which) practical ethics has advanced. Philosophers concerned about any of these issues are becoming increasingly aware of the complexities of the issues, and increasingly attentive to the interconnections between seemingly disparate moral issues. No issue is an island unto itself. Each engages both empirical data and theoretical considerations that are common to other practical moral issues. These connections will be apparent as one reads many of these chapters. This now gives us another way to see one earlier expressed worry about undue specialization: it leads practitioners to assume they can resolve one practical ethical issue without confronting underlying theoretical issues and without thinking about other practical issues. Practical ethics, well done, combats this danger of specialization by keeping us well aware of the interconnection between different issues and between theory and practice.
The Oxford Handbook of Rationality edited by Alfred R. Mele, Piers Rawling (Oxford University Press) In its primary sense, rationality is a normative concept that philosophers have generally tried to characterize in such a way that, for any action, belief, or desire, if it is rational we ought to choose it. No such positive characterization has achieved anything close to universal assent because, often, several competing actions, beliefs, or desires count as rational. Equating what is rational with what is rationally required eliminates the category of what is rationally allowed. Irrationality seems to be the more fundamental normative category; for although there are conflicting substantive accounts of irrationality, all agree that to say of an action, belief, or desire that it is irrational is to claim that it should always be avoided.
Rationality is also a descriptive concept that refers to those intellectual capacities, usually involving the ability to use language, that distinguish persons from plants and most other animals. There is some dispute about whether some non-human animals, e.g., dolphins and chimpanzees, are rational in this sense.
Theoretical rationality applies to beliefs. An irrational belief is one that obviously conflicts with what one should know. This characterization of an irrational belief is identical with the psychiatric characterization of a delusion. It is a person-relative concept, because what obviously conflicts with what should be known by one person need not obviously conflict with what should be known by another. On this account, any belief that is not irrational counts as rational. Many positive characterizations of rational beliefs have been proposed, e.g., (1) beliefs that are either self-evident or derived from self-evident beliefs by a reliable procedure and (2) beliefs that are consistent with the overwhelming majority of one's beliefs; but all of these positive characterizations have encountered serious objections.
Practical rationality applies to actions. For some philosophers it is identical to instrumental rationality on this view, commonly called instrumentalism, acting rationally simply means acting in a way that is maximally efficient in achieving one's goals. However, most philosophers realize that achieving one goal may conflict with achieving another, and therefore require that a rational action be one that best achieves one's goals only when these goals are considered as forming a system. Others have added that all of these goals must be ones that would be chosen given complete knowledge and understanding of what would be like to achieve these goals. On the latter account of rational action, the system of goals is chosen by all persons for themselves, and part from consistency there is no external standpoint from which to evaluate rationally any such system. Thus, for a person with a certain of goals it will be irrational to act morally.
Another account of rational action is not at all person-relative. On this account, to act rationally to act on universalizable principles, so that hat is a reason for one person must be a reason everyone. One point of such an account is to make it rationally required to act morally, thus making all immoral action irrational.
However, if to call an action irrational is to claim that everyone would hold that it is always to be avoided, then it is neither irrational to act immorally in order to benefit oneself or one's friends, nor irrational to act morally even when that goes against one's system of goals. Only a negative characterization of what is rational as what is not irrational, which makes it rationally permissible to act either morally or in accordance with one's own system of goals, as long as these goals meet some minimal objective standard, seems likely to be adequate.
The Oxford Handbook of Rationality consists of two main parts. The first examines the nature of rationality broadly understood. The second explores rationality's role in and relation to other domains of inquiry: psychology, gender, personhood, language, science, economics, law, and evolution. Our aim in this introductory essay is to sketch the theoretical terrain on which this volume is situated and to introduce the subsequent chapters.
The domain of rationality is customarily divided into the theoretical (see Robert Audi's chap. 2) and the practical. Whereas theoretical or epistemic rationality is concerned with what it is rational to believe, and sometimes with rational degrees of belief, practical rationality is concerned with what it is rational to do, or intend or desire to do. In this section, we raise some of the main issues relevant to philosophical discussion of the nature of rationality and then briefly describe the chapters in part 1.
One obvious issue concerns the relation between practical and theoretical rationality. Discussions of the nature of practical rationality and reason concern norms of choice, and it seems that if such norms are not arbitrary, arguments over what those norms are must ultimately be a theoretical matter. To suppose otherwise would seem to generate an infinite regress: if we could choose norms of choice on a rational basis, then this rational basis would itself require norms chosen on a rational basis, and so on. This issue arises, at least implicitly, in David Gauthier's approach, which is discussed by James Dreier in chapter 9. Conversely, practical considerations enter into the theoretical domain. This is examined by Gilbert Harman in chapter 3; and in one of the phenomena Alfred Mele explores in chapter 13—motivationally biased belief—practical considerations sometimes seem to influence beliefs in ways that violate epistemic norms (also see Samuels and Stich, chap. 15).
Harman explicitly discusses reasoning. What is the relation of reasoning to rationality? On certain decision-theoretic approaches (see James Joyce's chap. 8 and James Dreier's chap. 9), for example, rationality requires only that one's preferences meet certain ordering criteria: nothing is said about processes of reasoning about preference. In particular, decision theory does not require explicit calculation of expected utilities.
Decision theory is one approach in which rationality is seen as a matter of internal consistency. Minimally, the idea behind internal consistency approaches to rationality is that one might be rational and yet have false beliefs and perverse preferences provided that one is in some sense coherent (see chap. 4 by Brad Hooker and Bart Streumer, chap. 5 by Michael Smith, and chap. 7 by David McNaughton and Piers Rawling for more on internal consistency approaches). Although Hume (see Smith, chap. 5) does not actually use the term "rational," he is the historical figure perhaps most often associated with the idea that perverse preferences can be rational. And Kant is perhaps the figure most often associated with the denial of this, at least for the class of perverse preferences that motivate immoral action. In chapter 6, Onora O'Neill presents a Kantian argument for the claim that it is irrational to be immoral. (Related issues on Humean themes are whether beliefs can, by themselves, rationally require certain motives, and whether beliefs can, by themselves, produce those motives. See chaps. 5 and 7.)
Sometimes the issue of the basis of morality is put in terms of reasons: does one have reason to be moral? If it is supposed irrational to fail to do what you have most reason to do, this question is closely related to that of whether rationality prescribes doing as morality requires. But some authors deny that rationality requires doing what you have most reason to do: one might have an internal-consistency view of rationality but regard reasons as a more "external" or "substantive" matter (see chaps. 4, 5, and 7). Related to this is the vexed question of whether you have a reason to A only if you desire to A, or could reach such a desire if you were to reason in some appropriate fashion. (See chaps. 4 and 7.)
Among other issues addressed by the authors in part 1 are the relations between rationality and the emotions (Patricia Greenspan, chap. 11), the rationality of being guided by rules (Edward McClennen, chap. 12), the nature and causes of irrationality (Alfred Mele, chap. 13), and paradoxes of rationality (Roy Sorensen, chap. 14).
No contemporary discussion of rationality would be complete without significant material on the use of formal methods in its study. James Joyce examines Bayesianism as a unified theory of epistemic and practical rationality in chapter 8, with a focus on Bayesian epistemology. James Dreier, in chapter 9, shows how the formal apparatus of decision theory is connected to some abstract issues in moral theory. And the use of game theory to model interaction between decision makers is the topic of Cristina Bicchieri's chapter 10.
We turn now to summaries of the chapters in part 1: In "Theoretical Rationality: Its Sources, Structure, and Scope" (chap. 2), Robert Audi presents an account of the nature and chief varieties of theoretical rationality, conceived mainly as the rationality of cognitions—especially, beliefs. Audi describes the essential sources of theoretically rational cognitions: perception, memory, consciousness, reason, and testimony. He also examines the role of coherence in accounting for rational belief and distinguishes the evidential and conceptual roles of coherence. In the light of his account of sources of belief and knowledge, Audi describes the structure of a rational system of cognitions in persons whose beliefs reflect both direct responsiveness to basic sources of cognition—such as perception—and inferences that build on those sources. He considers conditions for rational change of belief, and he sketches structural and developmental aspects of a person's theoretical rationality. In his concluding sections, Audi discusses the scope of theoretical rationality and the kind of cognitive integration it requires.
In "Practical Aspects of Theoretical Reasoning" (chap. 3), Gilbert Harman distinguishes between two uses of the term "logic": as referring either to the theory of implication or to the theory of reasoning, which are quite distinct. His interest here is the latter. Reasoning is a process that can modify intentions and beliefs. To a first approximation, theoretical reasoning is concerned with what to believe and practical reasoning is concerned with what to intend to do, although it is possible to have practical reasons to believe something. Practical reasoning differs from theoretical reasoning in allowing arbitrary decisions and a certain sort of wishful thinking. Practical considerations are relevant to whether to engage in theoretical inquiry into a given question, the extent of time and other resources to devote to such inquiry, and whether and when to end such inquiry. Simplicity and conservatism play a role in theoretical reasoning that can be given a practical justification without allowing wishful thinking into theoretical reasoning, a justification that can also be given a nonpractical interpretation.
Brad Hooker and Bart Streumer, in "Procedural and Substantive Practical Rationality" (chap. 4), distinguish the two thus: according to proceduralism an agent is open to rational criticism for lacking a desire only if she fails to have a desire that she can rationally reach from her beliefs and other desires, whereas according to substantivism an agent is open to such criticism not only if her desires fail procedurally, but also if they fail substantively—where, for example, an agent who lacks the desire to take curative medicine might be substantively irrational in virtue of this lack, and yet be procedurally rational because she cannot ration-ally reach this desire from her beliefs and other desires. Hooker and Streumer discuss the proceduralist views of Hume (1739), Brandt (1979, 1989), and Williams (1981, 1995a, 1995b), before turning to substantivist arguments. They conclude by noting the advantages of following Scanlon (1998) in being a proceduralist about practical rationality but a substantivist about practical reasons.
In "Humean Rationality" (chap. 5), Michael Smith focuses on the relationship between reasons and rationality. He begins by noting the isomorphism between the rational transition to a psychological state from others and the derivation of a concluding proposition from premises in the deductive theoretical realm. He argues that this isomorphism led Hume to think that the rationality of the psychological transition is to be explained by the deductive validity of the derivation. Generalizing, Smith argues, Hume concluded that the concept of a reason—that is, the concept of a consideration that justifies—must be prior to and explain the concept of rationality. The fact that there is no such isomorphism in the practical and inductive realms is therefore, Smith suggests, what led Hume to his inductive and practical skepticism. Pace Hume, however, Smith argues that we need not agree that the concept of a reason is prior to the concept of rationality. He argues that we have an independent idea of the coherence of a set of psychological states and that this is sufficient to provide us with an account of what it is for beliefs and desires to be justified. In other words, coherence provides us with the needed accounts of inductive and practical rationality, though perhaps only an account of their rationality. In the theoretical domain there are propositions to serve as objects of belief, and these propositions can be reasons for further beliefs—beliefs that can be acquired by reasoning. In the theoretical realm, then, there are not just rational transitions, but also reasons and reasoning. In the practical realm, however, there are just the rational transitions themselves: practical reasons and reasoning are figments. Furthermore, in the practical realm, perhaps there is merely means-ends rationality. But Smith concludes by asking whether practical rationality is thus restricted. He suggests that this is where the Kantians join the debate. It is, he claims, an open question whether they are right that practical coherence can be extended as far as yielding justified desires to do as morality bids.
Onora O'Neill's Kantianism, however, goes beyond mere practical coherence. She sees it as basic to Kant's thinking about practical reasoning "that reasoning can bear on action because it is formed or shaped by maxims, which have propositional structure and content." Her central concern in "Kant: Rationality as Practical Reason" (chap. 6) is to explicate Kant's account of how we could have unconditional practical reasons to do as morality requires. Unconditional practical reasons are those not based upon arbitrarily chosen ends. But then, what is their basis? Kant's proposal, O'Neill argues, is that what makes a practical reason unconditional is its universal recognizability. An unconditional practical reason is one that can be seen to be a reason for action by any rational audience—its appeal relies on no parochial concerns. Such universal appeal is captured by the categorical imperative test (O'Neill examines in detail three formulations of this): only principles of action that pass this test can be universally recognized as yielding practical reasons.
Rationality, and Practical Reasons" (chap. 7), David McNaughton and Piers
Rawling present a view on which practical reasons are facts, such as the fact
that the rubbish bin is full. This is a non-normative fact, but it is a reason
for you to do something, namely take the rubbish out. McNaughton and Rawling see
rationality as a matter of consistency (failing to notice that the rubbish bin
is full need not be a rational failure). And they see duty as neither purely a
matter of rationality nor of practical reason. On the one hand, the rational
sociopath is immoral. But, on the other, morality does not require that we
always act on the weightiest moral reasons: we may not be reasonably expected to
know what these are. McNaughton and Rawling criticize various forms of
internalism, including Williams's, and they tentatively propose a view of duty
that is neither purely subjective in
James Joyce's primary concern in "Bayesianism" (chap. 8) is Bayesian epistemology. Bayesianism claims to provide a unified theory of epistemic and practical rationality based on the principle of mathematical expectation. In its epistemic guise it requires believers to obey the laws of probability. In its practical guise it asks agents to maximize their subjective expected utility. The five pillars of Bayesian epistemology are: (1) people have beliefs and conditional beliefs that come in varying gradations of strength; (2) a person believes a proposition strongly to the extent that she presupposes its truth in her practical and theoretical reasoning; (3) rational graded beliefs must conform to the laws of probability; (4) evidential relationships should be analyzed subjectively in terms of relations among a person's graded beliefs and conditional beliefs; (5) empirical learning is best modeled as probabilistic conditioning. Joyce explains each of these claims and evaluates some of the justifications that have been offered for them, including "Dutch book," "decision-theoretic," and "nonpragmatic" arguments for (3) and (5). He also ad-dresses some common objections to Bayesianism, in particular the "problem of old evidence" and the complaint that the view degenerates into an untenable subjectivism. The essay closes by painting a picture of Bayesianism as an "internalist" theory of reasons for action and belief that can be fruitfully augmented with "externalist" principles of practical and epistemic rationality.
In "Decision Theory and Morality" (chap. 9), James Dreier shows how the formal apparatus of decision theory is connected to some abstract issues in moral theory. He begins by explaining how to think about utility and the advice that decision theory gives us. In particular, decision theory does not assume or insist that all rational agents act in their own self-interest. Next he examines decision theory's contributions to social contract theory, with emphasis on David Gauthier's rationalist contractualism. Dreier's third section considers a reinterpretation of the formal theory that decision theorists use: utility might represent goodness rather than preference. His last section discusses Harsanyi's theorem.
The modeling of interaction between decision makers is the topic of Cristina Bicchieri's "Rationality and Game Theory" (chap. 1o). Chess is an example of such interaction, as are firms competing for business, politicians competing for votes, jury members deciding on a verdict, animals fighting over prey, bidders competing in auctions, threats and punishments in long-term relationships, and so on. What all these situations have in common is that the outcome of the interaction depends on what the parties jointly do. Rationality assumptions are a basic ingredient of game theory, but though rational choice might be unproblematic in normative decision theory, it becomes problematic in interactive con-texts, where the outcome of one's choice depends on the actions of other agents. Another basic ingredient is the idea of equilibrium play: roughly, an equilibrium is a combination of strategies, one for each player, such that each player's strategy is a best reply to the other players' choices. Thus it is individually rational for each agent to play her equilibrium strategy. But, notoriously, such individually rational play can lead to suboptimal outcomes, as in the well-known Prisoners' Dilemma. The relationship between rationality assumptions and equilibrium play is Bicchieri's main focus.
Patricia Greenspan, in "Rationality and Emotion" (chap. ii), discusses emotion as an element of practical rationality. One approach links emotion to evaluative judgment and applies some variant of the usual standards of rational belief and decision making. Fear, say, might be thought of as involving a judgment that some anticipated situation poses a threat, and as warranted (and warranting action) to the extent that the agent has reasons for thinking that it does. In order to make sense of empathetic emotions and similar cases that do not seem to involve belief in corresponding evaluative judgments, we can modify this "judgmentalist" account by interpreting emotions as states of affect with evaluative propositional content: fear is discomfort that some situation poses a threat. If we also allow that the rational appropriateness of an emotional response need not be determined by the total body of evidence, in contrast to the way we assess judgments, the result is a perspectival account of emotional rationality. An alternative, "paradigm scenarios" approach would appeal to the causal history of an emotion as determining rationality. However, in order to assess the appropriateness of particular instances of emotion we still seem to need to refer to their propositional content or some kind of claim they make about the situation. As factors leading to action, emotions involve an element of uncontrol that is typically seen as undermining rationality but can sometimes be part of a longer-term rational strategy to the extent that states of affect modify the agent's practical options.
In "The Rationality of Being Guided by Rules" (chap. 12), Edward McClennen addresses a fundamental dilemma facing the claim that it is rational to be guided by rules. Either (1) the practical verdict issued by a rule is the same as that favored by the balance of reasons, in which case the rule is redundant or (2) the verdicts differ, in which case the rule should be abandoned. McClennen argues that we can resolve this dilemma by revising our account of practical reasoning to accord with the prescriptions of a resolute choice model. Agents in societies in which people resolutely follow, for example, a rule to keep their commitments to return favors fare better than agents in societies that lack a commitment mechanism or in which costs are incurred to enforce it.
Alfred Mele, in "Motivated Irrationality" (chap. 13), explores two of the central topics falling under this rubric: akratic action (action exhibiting so-called weakness of will or deficient self-control) and motivationally biased belief (including self-deception). Among other matters, Mele offers a resolution of Donald Davidson's worry about the explanation of irrationality: "The underlying paradox of irrationality, from which no theory can entirely escape, is this: if we explain it too well, we turn it into a concealed form of rationality; while if we assign in-coherence too glibly, we merely compromise our ability to diagnose irrationality by withdrawing the background of rationality needed to justify any diagnosis at all" (1982, 303). When agents act akratically, they act for reasons, and in central cases, they make rational judgments about what it is best to do. The rationality required for that is in place. However, to the extent to which their actions are at odds with these judgments, they act irrationally. Motivationally biased believers test hypotheses and believe on the basis of evidence. Again there is a background of rationality. But owing`to the influence of motivation, they violate general standards of epistemic rationality.
In "Paradoxes of Rationality" (chap. 14), Roy Sorensen provides a panoramic view of paradoxes of theoretical and practical rationality. These puzzles are organized as apparent counterexamples to attractive principles such as the principle of charity, the transitivity of preferences, and the principle that we should maximize expected utility. The following paradoxes are discussed: fearing fictions, the surprise test paradox, Pascal's Wager, Pollock's Ever Better wine, Newcomb's problem, the iterated Prisoners' Dilemma, Kavka's paradoxes of deterrence, backward inductions, the bottle imp, the preface paradox, Moore's problem, Buridan's ass, Condorcet's paradox of cyclical majorities, the St. Petersburg paradox, weakness of will, the Ellsberg paradox, Allais's paradox, and Peter Cave's puzzle of self-fulfilling beliefs.
Part 2 of
The Oxford Handbook of Rationality explores rationality's role in and
relation to other domains of inquiry. It opens with chapters on rationality and
psychology (chap. 15 by Richard Samuels and Stephen Stich) and rationality and
gender (chap. i6 by Karen Jones). Whereas chapter 15 focuses on evidence for and
against the empirical claim that we are by and large rational, chapter 16
assesses feminist challenges to what have been traditionally viewed (largely by
men) as the norms that constitute what it is to be rational. In chapter 17,
Carol Rovane discusses personhood and rationality. Chapter 18 is Kirk Ludwig's
contribution on rationality and language. Paul Thagard's topic in chapter 19 is
rationality and science. Chapter 20, by Paul Weirich, is devoted to economic
rationality. Chapter 21 is Claire Finkelstein's examination of rationality and
law. And in chapter 22, Peter Danielson focuses on rationality and evolution.
Part 2 of The Oxford Handbook of Rationality explores rationality's role in and relation to other domains of inquiry. It opens with chapters on rationality and psychology (chap. 15 by Richard Samuels and Stephen Stich) and rationality and gender (chap. i6 by Karen Jones). Whereas chapter 15 focuses on evidence for and against the empirical claim that we are by and large rational, chapter 16 assesses feminist challenges to what have been traditionally viewed (largely by men) as the norms that constitute what it is to be rational. In chapter 17, Carol Rovane discusses personhood and rationality. Chapter 18 is Kirk Ludwig's contribution on rationality and language. Paul Thagard's topic in chapter 19 is rationality and science. Chapter 20, by Paul Weirich, is devoted to economic rationality. Chapter 21 is Claire Finkelstein's examination of rationality and law. And in chapter 22, Peter Danielson focuses on rationality and evolution.
We will now say something in more detail about each of the chapters in part 2.
Richard Samuels and Stephen Stich, in "Rationality and Psychology" (chap. 15), explore the debate over the extent to which ordinary human reasoning and decision making is rational. One prominent cluster of views, often associated with the heuristics and biases tradition in psychology, maintains that human reasoning is, in important respects, normatively problematic or irrational. Samuels and Stich start by detailing some key experimental findings from the heuristics and biases tradition and describe a range of pessimistic claims about the rationality of ordinary people that these and related findings are sometimes taken to support. Such pessimistic interpretations of the experimental findings have not gone unchallenged, however, and one of the most sustained and influential critiques comes from evolutionary psychology. Samuels and Stich outline some of the re-search on reasoning that has been done by evolutionary psychologists and describe a cluster of more optimistic theses about ordinary reasoning that such psychologists defend. Although Samuels and Stich think that the most dire pronouncements made by writers in the heuristics and biases tradition are unwarranted, they also maintain that the situation is rather more pessimistic than sometimes suggested by evolutionary psychologists. They conclude by defending this "middle way" and sketch a family of "dual processing" theories of reasoning which, they argue, offer some support for the moderate interpretation they advocate.
In "Rationality and Gender" (chap. 16), Karen Jones explores feminist stances toward gender and rationality. These divide into three broad camps: the "classical feminist" stance, according to which what needs to be challenged are not available norms and ideals of rationality, but rather the supposition that women are unable to meet them; the "different voice" stance, which challenges available norms of rationality as either incomplete or accorded an inflated importance; and the "strong critical" stance, which finds fault with the norms and ideals themselves. This contribution focuses on assessing the various projects—some rival, some complementary—being pursued within the third, critical camp. Jones offers a reconstruction of Catherine MacKinnon's critique of norms of rationality according to which they function to maintain relations of dominance by deauthorizing feminist claims to knowledge. Norms of rationality are thus linked to norms of credibility, and feminist rationality-critique is viewed as contributing to the naturalist project of defending norms of rationality that are appropriate for the kind of finite, embodied, socially located beings that we are.
Carol Rovane, in "Rational Persons" (chap. 17), explores eight related claims: (1) persons are not merely rational, but possess full reflective rationality; (2) there is a single overarching normative requirement that rationality places on persons, which is to achieve overall rational unity within themselves; (3) beings who possess full reflective rationality can enter into distinctively interpersonal relations, which involve efforts at rational influence from within the space of reasons; (4) a significant number of moral considerations speak in favor of defining the person as a reflective rational agent; (5) this definition of the person has led Locke and others to distinguish personal identity from animal identity; (6) although it is a platitude that a person has special reason to be concerned for its own well-being, it is not obvious how best to account for that platitude; (7) groups of human beings and parts of human beings might qualify as individual agents and, hence, as individual persons in their own right; (8) there is a sense in which the normative requirements of rationality are not categorical but merely hypothetical.
In "Rationality, Language, and the Principle of Charity" (chap. 18), Kirk Ludwig deals with the relations between language, thought, and rationality, and especially the role and status of assumptions about rationality in interpreting another's speech and assigning contents to her psychological attitudes—her beliefs, desires, intentions, and so on. The chapter is organized around three questions: (1) What is the relation between rationality and thought? (2) What is the relation between rationality and language? (3) What is the relation between thought and language? Ludwig's answers are as follows. Some large degree of rationality is required for thought. Consequently, that same degree of rationality at least is required for language, since language requires thought. Thought, however, does not require language. In answering the first question, Ludwig lays out the grounds for seeing rationality as required for thought, and he meets some recent objections on conceptual and empirical grounds. In answering questions (2) and (3), Ludwig gives particular attention to Donald Davidson's arguments for the Principle of Charity, according to which it is constitutive of speakers that they are largely rational and largely right about the world, and to Davidson's arguments for the thesis that without the power of speech we lack the power of thought.
Paul Thagard, in "Rationality and Science" (chap. 19), provides a review and assessment of central aspects of rationality in science. He deals first with the traditional question, What is the nature of the reasoning by which individual scientists accept and reject conflicting hypotheses? He also discusses the nature of practical reason in science and then turns to the question of the nature of group rationality in science. In this latter context, Thagard discusses, among other matters, his CCC (for consensus = coherence + communication) model, which shows how epistemic group rationality can arise in agents who communicate with each other while focusing on the explanation of observed phenomena. In the remainder of the chapter he examines whether scientists are in fact rational—that is, whether they conform to normative standards of individual and group rationality. Thagard considers various psychological and sociological factors that have been taken to undermine the rationality of science.
Paul Weirich, in "Economic Rationality" (chap. 20), examines three competing views entertained by economic theory about the instrumental rationality of decisions. The first says to maximize self-interest, the second to maximize utility, and the third to "satisfice," that is, to adopt a satisfactory option. Critics argue that the first view is too narrow, that the second overlooks the benefits of team-work and planning, and that the third, when carefully formulated, reduces to the second. Weirich defends a refined version of the principle to maximize utility. A broad conception of utility makes it responsive to the motives and benefits critics allege it overlooks. He discusses generalizations of utility theory to extend it to nonquantitative cases and other cases with nonstandard features.
The study of rationality as it bears on law is typically restricted to the uses made of the notion of rationality by the "law and economics movement." Legal economists accept the traditional economic assumption that rational agents seek primarily to maximize their personal utility. What kinds of laws should a society made up of largely rational agents adopt? Legal economists supply an answer: Ideally rational legal rules, like ideally rational people, will also seek to maximize utility. They will maximize social, rather than individual, utility. The purpose of law, on this view, is to ensure that when individual citizens seek to maximize their individual utility, they will incidentally maximize society's utility. In this way, law ideally provides individual agents with incentives for efficient behavior.
Claire Finkelstein, in "Contractarian Legal Theory" (chap. 21), suggests reasons why laws that maximize social utility are not necessarily the best legal rules for individuals that seek to maximize their personal utility. In particular, she suggests that ideally rational individuals would be unlikely to select the principle of utility maximization as the basis for choosing ideal legal rules. If Finkelstein is correct, the assumption that human beings are rational utility maximizers would have very different consequences from those legal economists have identified. Rational actor theory would be more likely to lead us to justify legal rules structured around contractarian principles—principles of agreement—than around the principle of utility maximization.
Peter Danielson's focus in "Rationality and Evolution" (chap. 22) is evolutionary game theory. Rationality and evolution are apparently quite different, applying to the acts of complex, well-informed individuals and to populations of what may be mindlessly simple entities respectively. So it is remarkable that evolutionary game theory shows the theory of rational agents and that of populations of replicating strategies to be isomorphic. Danielson illustrates its main concepts—evolutionarily stable strategies and replicator dynamics—with simple models that apply to biological and social interactions. He distinguishes biological, economic, and generalist ways of interpreting the theory. Against the background of isomorphism, he considers three ways in which evolution and rationality differ and how two-level models may combine them. Danielson concludes with a survey of the normative significance of the unification of rationality and evolutionary game theory and some speculation about the evolution of human rationality.
The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics edited by Michael J. Loux,
Dean W. Zimmerman (
remains true that for much of its early history analytic philosophy was
inhospitable to traditional metaphysics; and it cannot be denied that in the
heyday of logical positivism in the 1930s and 1940s or in the post-war period
when the ordinary language philosophy of the later Wittgenstein was most
influential, it was not fashionable to bill oneself as a metaphysician. But by
the early I960s prejudices against metaphysics were beginning to soften. This
change in attitude was due to the work of philosophers who were willing to
address metaphysical questions in spite of the long-standing prejudices.
Philosophers like Arthur Prior, Roderick Chisholm, and Wilfrid Sellars come to
mind here; but two philosophers were especially influential in the
rehabilitation of metaphysics—W. V. O. Quine and P. F. Strawson. They had their
roots in the anti-metaphysical traditions they helped undermine. Quine came out
of the tradition of logical positivism, and Strawson was originally a
representative of the ordinary language tradition. Both attempted to show that
there is a project in metaphysics responsible philosophers can in good
conscience undertake. For Strawson, the project was what he called `descriptive
metaphysics'. According to Strawson, the aim of descriptive metaphysics is the
systematic characterization of the most general categorial or structural
features of the conceptual scheme in terms of which we talk and think about the
world. Quine, by contrast, focused on the ontological commitments associated
with accepting a body of discourse. His famous slogan `To be is to be the value
of a bound variable' was supposed to provide a criterion by which the
metaphysician can determine just which kinds of entities we commit ourselves to
by endorsing a given body of statements. Both philosophers were highly
influential, each on his respective side of the
was that philosophers no longer felt the need to conceal their interest in
metaphysical issues, and there was something like a revival of traditional
commit us to the existence of abstract entities. And if they do, are those abstract entities things like sets whose identity conditions can be given in straightforwardly extensional terms, or are we committed to things like properties and propositions? And these questions led to others. Those who endorsed the existence of properties faced questions about individuation. If there are such things as properties, how are they related to familiar concrete particulars? Are the latter just bundles of properties, or do particulars constitute an irreducible ontological category? And since propositions are the sorts of things that are said to be necessary, possible, contingent, and impossible, those who endorsed the existence of propositions found themselves forced to confront questions about modality. Do we need to follow Leibniz and appeal to a special category of objects—possible worlds—to explain how modal claims can be true or false? And if so, how do particulars figure in the story? Are they the sorts of things that can exist in different possible worlds? And what does that tell us about their ontological structure? The range of legitimate metaphysical questions kept expanding, and soon philosophers in this tradition were asking all the old questions. What is the nature of time? What is it for an ordinary object to persist through time? What is the nature of space? Do events constitute an irreducibly basic kind of object? If so, what are they like and what are their identity conditions? What is causation? Are there any uncaused events?
We suspect that, past mid-century, few philosophers really believed that the standard verificationist arguments against the meaningfulness of metaphysical claims were any good. Nevertheless, systematic metaphysics continued to languish. It was typical of those who began to raise the old metaphysical questions during the 1960s and 1970s to proceed cautiously, addressing now this metaphysical problem, now that. Their caution was understandable; after the idealists were routed, the most prominent builders of metaphysical systems were Whitehead, Bergson, and Paul Weiss. Despite their evident genius, whatever insights they had into metaphysical problems were invisible to analytic philosophers. Indeed, they seemed to many to serve as an object lesson: This is what happens when you try to do metaphysics in the grand manner. They and their admirers produced bodies of work that followed the same recipe used by the nineteenth-century idealists: (i) set forth your own baroque ontological scheme in a new, peculiar jargon; (ii) claim that it is radically opposed to all preceding metaphysical systems; and (iii) explain its intricacies in a series of ever longer books, introducing as many undefined technical terms as possible.
By the mid-1980s a new generation of philosophers was coming to the study of metaphysics. These philosophers had no first-hand knowledge of the positivist or ordinary language attacks on metaphysics. For them, the attacks were quaint episodes from a distant past rather than serious theoretical challenges. Accordingly, they were not in the least apologetic about doing metaphysics, nor were they content with a piecemeal approach to metaphysics. Unlike many of their predecessors, they were willing to attempt the construction of comprehensive ontological theories, building upon the work of such trailblazers in the rehabilitation of systematic metaphysics as Roderick Chisholm, David Armstrong, and David Lewis.
Quine's criterion of ontological commitment was very important to philosophers like Chisholm and Lewis. Both are rightly regarded as champions of a chastened approach to metaphysics, one that neither shies away from the traditional problems of ontology, nor falls back into the arcane, untethered system-building that had given metaphysics a bad name; and both regarded Quine's criterion as an antidote to the besetting sins of traditional metaphysicians.
The approach to questions of ontological commitment defended by Quine in `On What There Is' (1948) was already in place by 1939, when Chisholm and Quine overlapped at Harvard (Chisholm a graduate student, Quine a young professor). In the hands of Chisholm, Lewis, and their heirs, Quine's criterion of ontological commitment is understood to be something like this: If one affirms a statement using a name or other singular term, or an initial phrase of `existential quantification, like `There are some so-and-sos', then one must either (1) admit that one is committed to the existence of things answering to the singular term or satisfying the description, or (2) provide a `paraphrase' of the statement that eschews singular terms and quantification over so-and-sos. So interpreted, Quine's criterion can be seen as a logical development of the methods of Russell and Moore, who assumed that one must accept the existence of entities corresponding to the singular terms used in statements one accepts, unless and until one finds systematic methods of paraphrase that eliminate these terms.
metaphysics of Chisholm and, later, Lewis look nothing like Quine's, however.
For Quine, it is the deliverances of science alone that should determine our
ontological commitments. As Chisholm saw it, this was the decisive point at
which he departed from Quine and took inspiration from
One presupposition of the version of Quineanism invoked by Chisholm and Lewis is that the nature of the ontological categories is somewhat opaque to us. There is still hope for ontology, however, since our fallible intuitions about the subject can be tethered in this way to success elsewhere, in the resolution of philosophical problems concerning better-known matters.
The differences between Quine's starting point and that of Chisholm, Lewis, and the rest lead to greater differences down the line. With only (a small sub-set of) the sciences yielding truths for the ontologist to consider, Quine can rest content with an austere naturalism: although one cannot accept the mathematics needed for science without set theory, no further `queer entities' need be recognized; there is only space-time and its particular contents, and sets of such things. Chisholm, Lewis, and company have many more truths to consider, and more apparent paradoxes to resolve. They have generally found it very difficult to arrive at metaphysical theories satisfying both desiderata of simplicity and scope without giving up Quine's insistence upon a purely extensional language and logic. Lewis was able to retain extensionality, but at great cost—the positing of an extravagant ontology of concrete, spatio-temporally disconnected universes, which he defended by an explicit appeal to Quinean principles of ontological commitment. His attitude toward the contents of our world, however, remained staunchly materialist, and not substantially different from that of Quine. Chisholm, unlike Lewis, rejects Quine's logical scruples, taking at least one intentional (mental) and intensional (non-extensional) notion as a primitive. He also concludes that the only way to retain most of what we think we know about persons is to admit that they are very special: they have causal powers unlike those found elsewhere in nature, they can `grasp' or conceive of abstract objects, and their persistence conditions are mysteriously different from those of ordinary physical objects. Such conclusions make his metaphysics unacceptable to Quine and other naturalistically inclined philosophers. Although there is much in the metaphysics of both Chisholm and Lewis that their critics find mysterious or unbelievable, both systems include solutions to a host of philosophical puzzles, and stand as a challenge to be met by anyone who would defend metaphysical naturalism and nominalism while rejecting Lewis's vastly enlarged physical ontology.
Most philosophers today who identify themselves as metaphysicians are in basic agreement with the Quinean approach to systematic metaphysics exemplified in the work of Chisholm and Lewis. Indeed, it is probably not much of an exaggeration to say that today's crop of metaphysicians can be divided fairly exhaustively into those most influenced by the one or the other. That division is reflected in the debates discussed in the chapters that follow. Those chapters approach the field topically. Each focuses on a fundamental metaphysical issue; the aim is to provide an account of the nature and structure of the debate over the issue. But the chapters are not merely about metaphysics; they are also exercises in metaphysics with authors attempting to advance the debate over the relevant issues. The first three focus on the traditional dichotomy of universal and particular. Zoltan Szabo discusses nominalistic accounts of the phenomena central to the debate over universals; whereas Joshua Hoffman and Gary Rosenkrantz focus on Platonistic accounts of universals. E. J. Lowe closes Part I by discussing problems surrounding the individuation of particulars. Next, there follows a pair of chapters on very general ontological issues. John Hawthorne deals with the concept of identity, and Peter van Inwagen discusses the phenomenon of ontological commitment and attempts to show how the case of fictional discourse is to be accommodated.
Modal issues have been pivotal in recent analytic metaphysics. Here, the central debate has been between those endorsing non-reductive theories of modality and those insisting on reductive accounts of modal phenomena. In his contribution Kit Fine deals with approaches of the first sort; whereas Ted Sider examines approaches of the second sort. In addition, discussion of non-reductive theories can be found in Hoffman and Rosenkrantz's chapter on Platonistic theories of universals.
Part IV focuses on issues bearing on the metaphysics of time and space. One important debate on the nature of time pits what are called presentists against those who construe time as a fourth dimension on a par with the three spatial dimensions. Thomas Crisp examines presentist theorists; whereas Michael Rea discusses four-dimensionalism. In his chapter, Graham Nerlich discusses issues bearing on the debate over the status of space-time. Finally, Sally Haslanger discusses the different approaches to questions about persistence through time and their theoretical roots in the metaphysics of time.
Part V deals with a series of interrelated issues about events, causation, and physical theory. In the first chapter Peter Simons discusses recent debates about the existence and nature of events. Michael Tooley and Hartry Field each contribute a chapter on causation. Tooley focuses on broader issues about the analysis of our concept of causation; whereas Field examines the more particular case of causation in physical theory. Finally, we have a chapter by Tim Maudlin on the metaphysical implications of quantum mechanics.
The next three chapters focus on questions about the metaphysics of persons and the mental. Dean Zimmerman examines materialist accounts of persons. His chapter is followed by two more general discussions of the metaphysical status of the mental. The first, by Howard Robinson, focuses on general ontological questions about the nature and structure of perceptual and conceptual episodes. The second, by Jaegwon Kim, considers the way questions about supervenience and reduction have come together in recent attempts at providing materialist accounts of intentional phenomena. Then we have two chapters on the problem of freedom of the will. Carl Ginet examines libertarian approaches; whereas Ted Warfield discusses compatibilist accounts of freedom.
bears broadly on realism and attempts to delineate alternatives to realism.
Michael Loux discusses the very influential debates over realism and
anti-realism that originated with Michael Dummett and dominated the British
philosophical scene in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. Ernest Sosa considers
approaches to questions about realism that have their origin in facts bearing
on ontological relativity. Finally, Timothy Williamson attempts to lay out the
central features of metaphysical debates over the nature of vagueness.
The Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics edited by Jerrold Levinson (Oxford University Press) brings the authority, liveliness, and multi-disciplinary scope of the Handbook series to a fascinating theme in philosophy and the arts. Jerrold Levinson has assembled a hugely impressive range of talent to contribute 48 brand-new essays, making this the most comprehensive guide available to the theory, application, history, and future of the field. This Handbook will be invaluable to academics and students across philosophy and all branches of the arts, both as the reference work of choice and as a stimulus to new research and creativity.
The aim of this Handbook is to present the state of the art in philosophical aesthetics as it is practised in the English-speaking world. Handbook in hand, a reader with a general philosophical background should be in a position to follow and, if so inclined, enter into debates on questions in aesthetics as they are currently being conducted in books, journals, and conferences across the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, and other centres of anglophone thought.'
The Handbook includes forty-six systematic chapters on virtually all the major issues in philosophical aesthetics that are active topics of discussion and research. In addition to these systematic chapters on specific topics, there are two chapters, at the beginning of the Handbook, which serve as a kind of introduction to the subject as a whole. One is a general overview of the field of philosophical aesthetics, in two parts: the first is a quick sketch of the lay of the land, and the second an account of the development of five central problems over the past fifty years. The other chapter is an extensive survey of recent work in the history of modern aesthetics, or aesthetic thought from the seventeenth to the mid-twentieth centuries.
The systematic contributions are of three kinds, and constitute the bulk of the JHandbook. Part I comprises chapters dealing with general problems in aesthetics, such as expression, fiction, or aesthetic experience, considered apart from any particular artform. The second part contains chapters on problems in aesthetics as they arise in connection with particular artforms, such as music, film, or dance. Chapters in Part III address relations between aesthetics and other fields of inquiry, or explore viewpoints and concerns complementary to those prominent in main-stream analytic aesthetics.
The relatively large number of contributions in the Handbook is justified by the diversity, complexity, and vigour of the field of aesthetics as it currently exists. If aesthetics fifty years ago was something of a backwater in philosophy, it is no longer, and the interactions in both directions between aesthetics and other branches of philosophy—in particular, metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and political philosophy—only continue to grow.
The chapters in the Handbook vary in size, from about 4,500 words for chapters of fairly narrow scope (e.g. `Metaphor, `Environmental Aesthetics') to about 12,000 words for those of broader scope (e.g. `Music, `Definition of Art'), with an aver-age length of about 8,500 words.' In addition, all chapters include ample and up-to-date bibliographies.
orientation of the Handbook is clearly Anglo-American, with the methodology of
analytic philosophy largely, though not everywhere, in evidence. That said,
contributors have been encouraged to acknowledge and, where appropriate,
comment on perspectives on the problem under discussion deriving from other
philosophical and critical traditions. Though most contributors are based in the
Handbook authors are all well-known aestheticians, visible in the field and credible on the topics being surveyed through having contributed importantly to existing debate on them. Assignment of specific subjects to specific contributors was made on the basis not only of contributors' authoritativeness on and appropriateness to a given topic, but also on their earlier efforts for related ventures, some attempt having been made to avoid the duplicating of chapters written for other reference works.
A distinctive feature of the Handbook is that a number of contributors are responsible for two chapters rather than the more usual one. The result is arguably more unity of style and coverage, and a closer interrelating of the concerns of certain pairs of chapters. At the end of every chapter is a list of cross-references to other chapters in the Handbook treating of related matters.
The Handbook is explicitly targeted at scholars in aesthetics, that is graduate students, professors, and researchers in departments of philosophy. However, the Handbook should also prove useful to serious critics, theorists, and historians of the arts concerned to keep abreast of current directions in philosophical aesthetics, as well as to the philosophically informed general reader with a theoretical interest in the arts.
A few words are in order on how the Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics distinguishes itself from two recent and recommendable reference works of roughly similar aim. The Handbook differs from the Routledge Companion to Aesthetics (London 2001) in at least three respects. First, contributions that follow are geared, for the most part, to graduate rather than undergraduate students; second, the chapters are significantly longer, and contain more extensive bibliographies; third, there are more systematic contributions in the Handbook, made possible by the decision to forgo chapters on individual historical figures or movements. The Handbook also distinguishes itself from the Encyclopedia of Aesthetics (New York, 1998) in being a one-volume rather than a four-volume affair, and in virtue of its more uniformly analytic orientation and more exclusively philosophical focus.
naturally not proved possible, for reasons of space, to include in the Handbook
chapters on quite all the topics of interest in contemporary aesthetics, for
instance, taste, genius, criticism, formalism, and so on. However, readers will
find that a number of these nominally missing topics are in fact discussed, at
least in passing, in one or more of the chapters in the Handbook. The following
should serve as a guide to some of these hidden topics:
Aesthetic judgement: see chapters on Aesthetic Realism 1, Aesthetic Realism 2, Aesthetic Experience, Value in Art, Beauty.
Aesthetic pleasure: see Aesthetic Experience, Value in Art.
Aesthetic property: see Aesthetic Realism 1, Aesthetic Realism 2.
Art and society: see Aesthetics and Cultural Studies, Aesthetics of Popular Art, Art and Politics, Feminist Aesthetics.
Autonomy: see Aesthetics of the Avant-Garde, Art and Politics.
Censorship: see Art and Politics.
Comedy: see Humour.
Craft: see Aesthetics of the Everyday, Definition of Art.
Criticism: see Aesthetic Realism 1, Aesthetic Realism 2, Interpretation in Art, Literature.
Depiction: see Representation in Art.
Erotic art: see Art and Morality, Feminist Aesthetics. Forgery: see Authenticity in Art.
Formalism: see Aesthetic Experience, Beauty, Feminist Art, Value in Art.
Genius: see Creativity in Art.
Genre: see Interpretation in Art, Literature, Medium in Art.
Imagination: see Aesthetics and Cognitive Science, Fiction.
Improvisation: see Creativity in Art, Music. Opera: see Music, Theatre.
Originality: see Authenticity in Art, Creativity in Art.
Performance: see Creativity in Art, Dance, Music, Theatre, Ontology of Art. Pictorial realism: see Representation in Art.
Pragmatism: see Aesthetics of the Everyday, Aesthetics and Postmodernism.
Skill: see Creativity in Art, Medium in Art. Sublime: see History of Modern Aesthetics. Taste: see Aesthetic Experience, Beauty.
The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology edited by Paul K. Moser
(Oxford University Press) contains 19 previously unpublished chapters by today's
leading figures in the field. These chapters function not only as a survey of
key areas, but as original scholarship on a range of vital topics. Written
accessibly for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and professional
philosophers, the Handbook explains the main ideas and problems of contemporary
epistemology while avoiding overly technical detail.
The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology edited by Paul K. Moser (Oxford University Press) contains 19 previously unpublished chapters by today's leading figures in the field. These chapters function not only as a survey of key areas, but as original scholarship on a range of vital topics. Written accessibly for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and professional philosophers, the Handbook explains the main ideas and problems of contemporary epistemology while avoiding overly technical detail.
EPISTEMOLOGY, characterized broadly, is an account of knowledge. Within the discipline of philosophy, epistemology is the study of the nature of knowledge and justification: in particular, the study of (a) the defining components, (b) the substantive conditions or sources, and (c) the limits of knowledge and justification. Categories (a)–(c) have prompted traditional philosophical controversy over the analysis of knowledge and justification, the sources of knowledge and justification (in the case, for instance, of rationalism vs. empiricism), and the status of skepticism about knowledge and justification.
Epistemologists have distinguished some species of knowledge, including: propositional knowledge (that something is so), nonpropositional knowledge of something (for instance, knowledge by acquaintance, or by direct awareness), empirical (a posteriori) propositional knowledge, nonempirical (a priori) propositional knowledge, and knowledge of how to do something. Recent epistemology has included controversies over distinctions between such species, for example, over (i) the relations between some of these species (for example, does knowledge-of reduce somehow to knowledge-that?) and (ii) the viability of some of these species (for instance, is there really such a thing as, or even a coherent notion of, a priori knowledge?).
A posteriori knowledge is widely regarded as knowledge that depends for its supporting ground on some specific sensory or perceptual content. In contrast, a priori knowledge is widely regarded as knowledge that does not depend for its supporting ground on such experiential content. The epistemological tradition stemming from Immanuel Kant proposes that the supporting ground for a priori knowledge comes solely from purely intellectual processes called "pure reason" or "pure understanding." In this tradition, knowledge of logical truths is a standard case of a priori knowledge, whereas knowledge of the existence or presence of physical objects is a standard case of a posteriori knowledge. An account of a priori knowledge should explain what the relevant purely intellectual processes are and how they contribute to nonempirical knowledge. Analogously, an account of a posteriori knowledge should explain what sensory or perceptual experience is and how it contributes to empirical knowledge. Even so, epistemologists have sought an account of propositional knowledge in general, that is, an account of what is common to a priori and a posteriori knowledge.
Ever since Plato's Theaetetus, epistemologists have tried to identify the essential, defining components of propositional knowledge. These components will yield an analysis of propositional knowledge. An influential traditional view, inspired by Plato and Kant among others, is that propositional knowledge has three individually necessary and jointly sufficient components: justification, truth, and belief. On this view, propositional knowledge is, by definition, justified true belief. This tripartite definition has come to be called "the standard analysis." (See the essay by Shope on this analysis.)
Knowledge is not just true belief. Some true beliefs are supported merely by lucky guesswork and thus are not knowledge. Knowledge requires that the satisfaction of its belief condition be "appropriately related" to the satisfaction of its truth condition. This is one broad way of understanding the justification condition of the standard analysis. We might say that a knower must have adequate indication that a known proposition is true. If we understand such adequate indication as a sort of evidence indicating that a proposition is true, we have adopted a prominent traditional view of the justification condition: justification as evidence. Questions about justification attract much attention in contemporary epistemology. Controversy arises over the meaning of "justification" as well as over the substantive conditions for a belief's being justified in a way appropriate to knowledge.
An ongoing controversy has emerged from this issue: Does epistemic justification, and thus knowledge, have foundations, and, if so, in what sense? The key question is whether some beliefs (a) have their epistemic justification noninferentially (that is, apart from evidential support from any other beliefs), and (b) supply epistemic justification for all justified beliefs that lack such noninferential justification. Traditional foundationalism, represented in different ways by, for example, Aristotle, Descartes, Bertrand Russell, C. I. Lewis, and Roderick Chisholm, offers an affirmative answer to this issue. (See the essay by Fumerton on foundationalism.)...
In "Conditions and Analyses of Knowing," Robert Shope examines the essential conditions of propositional knowledge. He thus focuses on the conditions that must be satisfied for a person to have knowledge, specifically knowledge that something is so. Traditionally knowledge has been analyzed in terms of justified true belief. Shope first addresses philosophers' disagreements concerning the truth and belief conditions. After introducing the justification condition, he presents counterexamples (specifically Gettier-type counterexamples) challenging the standard analysis of knowledge. These challenges have provoked several attempts to replace or to supplement the justification condition for knowledge. Shope presents and assesses several of these, including early causal theories, the nonaccidentality requirement, reliable process and conditional analyses, the reliable-indicator analysis, the conclusive reasons analysis, defeasibility analyses, analyses in terms of cognitive or intellectual virtues, and Plantinga's proper functionalism. He then presents and defends his own account of knowledge.
In "The Sources of Knowledge," Robert Audi identifies the sources from which we acquire knowledge or justified belief. He distinguishes what he calls the "four standard basic sources": perception, memory, consciousness, and reason. A basic source yields knowledge or justified belief without positive dependence on another source. He distinguishes each of the above as a basic source of knowledge, with the exception of memory. Memory, while a basic source of justification, plays a preservative rather than a generative role in knowledge. Audi contrasts basic sources with nonbasic sources, concentrating on testimony. After clarifying the relationship between a source and a ground, or "what it is in virtue of which one knows or justifiedly believes," Audi evaluates the basic sources' individual and collective autonomy as well as their vulnerability to defeasibility. He also examines the relationship of coherence to knowledge and justification, noting the distinction between a negative dependence on incoherence and a positive dependence on coherence.
In "A Priori Knowledge," Albert Casullo identifies four questions central to the contemporary discussion about a priori knowledge: (1) What is a priori knowledge? (2) Is there a priori knowledge? (3) What is the relationship between the a priori and the necessary? (4) Is there synthetic a priori knowledge? Casullo is mainly concerned with (2). He is concerned with (3) and (4) only insofar as they relate to responses to (1) and (2). He begins by offering an answer to (1) in order to put us in a position to respond to (2). Ultimately, he defines a priori knowledge as true belief with a priori justification, where a belief is a priori justified if it is nonexperientially justified. Armed with this definition, Casullo evaluates several traditional arguments for and against the existence of a priori knowledge. He concludes that no argument on either side is convincing. By arguing on a priori grounds that the opposite position is deficient, the traditional arguments reach an impasse. A successful way to defend a priori knowledge, he argues, would be to find empirical evidence that supports the existence of nonexperiential sources of justification.
In "The Sciences and Epistemology," Alvin Goldman finds that epistemology cannot be subsumed under or identified with a science. Epistemology and the sciences, according to Goldman, should remain distinct yet cooperative. He presents several examples that illustrate the relevance of science to epistemology. Drawing from work in psychology, he proposes that science can shed light on epistemic achievements by contributing to our understanding of the nature and extent of human cognitive endowments. He suggests, in addition, that psychology can also contribute to our understanding of the sources of knowledge. Finally, Goldman argues that some specific projects in epistemology can receive important contributions from psychology, economics, and sociology.
In "Conceptual Diversity in Epistemology," Richard Foley reflects on such central topics in epistemology as knowledge, warrant, rationality, and justification. He aims to distinguish such concepts in a general theory. Epistemologists have searched for that which constitutes knowledge when added to true belief. Foley calls this "warrant" and suggests that rationality and justification are not linked to knowledge by necessity. He proceeds to offer a general schema for rationality. This schema enables a distinction between "rationality" and "rationality all things considered." Foley proposes how these concepts can work together in a system that "provides the necessary materials for an approach to epistemology that is clarifying, theoretically respectable, and relevant to our actual lives."
In "Theories of Justification," Richard Fumerton offers an overview of several prominent positions on the nature of justification. He begins by isolating epistemic justification from nonepistemic justification. He also distinguishes between "having justification for a belief" and "having a justified belief," arguing that the former is conceptually more fundamental. Fumerton then addresses the possibility that justification is a normative matter, suggesting that this possibility has little to offer a concept of epistemic justification. He also critically examines more specific attempts to capture the structure and content of epistemic justification. These include traditional foundationalism and variants thereof, externalist versions of foundationalism; contextualism; coherentism; and "mixed" theories which combine aspects of coherentism and foundationalism.
In "Internalism and Externalism," Laurence BonJour suggests that the con-temporary epistemological debate over internalism and externalism concerns the formulation of the justification or warrant condition in an account of knowledge. The internalist requires that for a belief to meet this condition all of the necessary elements must be cognitively accessible to the believer. The externalist, on the other hand, claims that at least some such elements do not need to be accessible to the believer. BonJour gives an overview of this dispute, beginning with internalism and then considering the main reasons offered by externalists for rejecting the more traditional epistemological approach. He investigates the externalist alternative by looking at the most popular version, reliabilism, and at the main objections that have been raised against reliabilism. This motivates a look at some other versions of externalism, in order to see how susceptible they are to similar objections. BonJour suggests that the opposition between the two views is less straightforward than has usually been thought. He proposes, in addition, that each of them has valuable roles to play in major epistemological issues, even though the internalist approach is more fundamental in an important way.
J"Tracking, Competence, and Knowledge," Ernest Sosa notes that in at-tempting to
account for the conditions for knowledge, externalists have proposed that the
justification condition be replaced or supplemented by the requirement that a
certain modal relation obtain between a fact and a subject's belief concerning
that fact. Sosa assesses attempts to identify such a relation. He focuses on an
account labeled "Cartesian-tracking." This accounts for the relation in the form
of two conditionals:
A. If a person S believes a proposition P → P.
B. P → S believes P.
Sosa modifies the account to make it more plausible, concluding that whereas
before the modifications it was too weak to account for knowledge, with them it
is too strong. He suggests that (B) be abandoned as a requirement and that (A),
equipped with his modifications, can offer promising results in connection with
skepticism. He argues that modified (A) coupled with the requirement that S's
belief be "virtuous" can illuminate the nature of propositional knowledge.
Sosa modifies the account to make it more plausible, concluding that whereas before the modifications it was too weak to account for knowledge, with them it is too strong. He suggests that (B) be abandoned as a requirement and that (A), equipped with his modifications, can offer promising results in connection with skepticism. He argues that modified (A) coupled with the requirement that S's belief be "virtuous" can illuminate the nature of propositional knowledge.
In "Virtues in Epistemology," John Greco presents and evaluates two main notions of intellectual virtue. The first concerns Ernest Sosa's development of this concept as a disposition to grasp truth and avoid falsehood. Greco contrasts this with moral models of intellectual virtue that include a motivational component in their definition, namely a desire for truth. He claims, however, that if the latter were used to account for epistemic justification and knowledge, they would exclude obvious cases of knowledge. Instead, Greco offers a minimalist reliabilist account of intellectual virtue. He argues that this view, "in which the virtues are conceived as reliable cognitive abilities or powers," can be illuminating in an account of knowledge. He sets out to support this on the ground that his approach to intellectual virtue can adequately address three major problems in the theory of knowledge: Humean skepticism, the Gettier problem, and the problem of showing that knowledge is more valuable than mere true belief.
In "Mind and Knowledge," John Heil notes that our knowledge of the world depends on our nature as knowers. Many people, philosophers included, assume realism about the world toward which our beliefs are directed: that is, that the world is as it is independently of how we might take it to be. It is unclear how we could convincingly establish, in a noncircular manner, that the world is as we think it is. This suggests skepticism, and, according to Heil, realism and skepticism go hand in hand. Heil discusses the implications of such a view, particularly as they concern knowledge we seemingly have of our own states of mind. He considers the view that to calibrate ourselves as knowers we should proceed from resources "immediately available to the mind" to conclusions about the external world. He evaluates Descartes's attempt to do this and examines two other possibilities: an externalist view of mental content and an internalist approach to content.
In "Skepticism," Peter Klein divides philosophical skepticism into two basic forms. The "Academic Skeptic" proposes that we cannot have knowledge of a certain set of propositions. The "Pyrrhonian Skeptic," on the other hand, refrains from opining about whether we can have knowledge. Klein outlines two arguments for Academic Skepticism: (1) a "Cartesian-style" argument based on the claim that knowledge entails the elimination of all doubt, and (2) a "Closure Principle-style" argument based on the claim that if x entails y and S has justification for x, then S has justification for y. He evaluates both, suggesting that while there is plausible support for (2), there seems to be none for (I). Klein turns to contextualism to see if it can contribute to the discussion between one who claims that we can have knowledge about some epistemically interesting class of propositions and the Academic Skeptic. He outlines the background of Pyrrhonian Skepticism, pointing out that the Pyrrhonist withholds assent concerning our knowledge-bearing status because reason cannot provide an adequate basis for assent. He assesses three possible patterns of reasoning (foundationalism, coherentism, and infinitism), and concludes that the Pyrrhonist view, that reason cannot resolve matters concerning the nonevident, is vindicated.
In "Epistemological Duties," Richard Feldman uses three main questions to illuminate the topic of epistemological duties. (1) "What are our epistemological duties?" That is, what are the obligations of a believer qua believer? Is it simply our duty to form positive beliefs or to develop appropriate cognitive attitudes, which include disbelief and the suspension of judgment? Perhaps our duty is only to try to believe the truth. Perhaps it is more "diachronic", involving evidence gathering and other extended efforts to maximize our true beliefs and to minimize our false beliefs. After suggesting that epistemological duties pertain to the development of appropriate cognitive attitudes, Feldman asks (2) "What makes a duty epistemological?" and (3) "How do epistemological duties interact with other kinds of duties?" His pursuit of (3) contributes to his response to (2), in that he uses it to argue that a concept of distinctly epistemological duty must exclude practical and moral duties that pertain to belief and include only duties that pertain to epistemological success (the act of having reasonable or justified cognitive attitudes).
In "Scientific Knowledge," Philip Kitcher offers an approach to scientific knowledge that is more systematic than many current approaches in the epistemology of science. He challenges arguments against the truth of the theoretical claims of science. In addition, he attempts to discover reasons for endorsing the truth of such claims. He tries to apply current "scientific method" to this end (including confirmation theory and Bayesianism), but doubts that any context-independent method gives warrant to the theoretical claims of science. He suggests that the discovery of reasons might succeed if we ask why anyone thinks the theoretical claims we accept are true and then look for answers that reconstruct actual belief-generating processes. To this end, Kitcher presents the "homely argument" for scientific truth. It entails that when a field of science is continually applied to yield precise predictions, then it is at least approximately true. He defends this approach and offers a supplementary account that gives more attention to detail. This account includes a historical aspect (a dependence on the previous conclusions of scientists) that must answer to skeptical challenges and a social aspect (the coordination of individuals in pursuit of specific knowledge-related goals).
In "Explanation and Epistemology," William Lycan proposes that explanation and epistemology are related in at least three ways. First, "to explain something is an epistemic act, and to have something explained to you is to learn." Lycan begins his account of explanation by drawing out several paradigms for scientific explanation, but he finds it unlikely that scientific explanation will be captured by a single set of necessary and sufficient conditions. Noting, however, that scientific explanation does not exhaust an account of explanation in general, he moves on to a second way in which explanation is related to epistemology: by the idea of explanatory inference. This is the idea of proceeding from a specific explanandum to the best hypothetical explanation for that explanandum. To account for a hypothesis' being "the best," Lycan introduces "pragmatic virtues" that can increase the value of a hypothesis. This leads into a discussion of Explanationism. The third way in which explanation relates to epistemology claims that a belief can be justified if it is arrived at by explanatory inference. Lycan distinguishes four degrees of the theory, but focuses on "Weak Explanationism" (the idea that epistemic justification by explanatory inference is possible) and "Ferocious Explanationism" (the notion that explanatory inference is the only basic form of ampliative inference).
In "Decision Theory and Epistemology," Mark Kaplan finds it characteristic of orthodox Bayesians to hold that (1) for each person and each hypothesis she comprehends, there is a precise degree of confidence that person has in the truth of that proposition, and (2) no person can be counted as rational unless the degree of confidence assignment she thus harbors satisfies the axioms of the probability calculus. Many epistemologists have objected to the idea that each of us harbors a precise degree of confidence assignment. Even if we had such an assignment, the condition on a person's being rational endorsed by the orthodox Bayesian would be too demanding to be applied to beings, such as ourselves, who have limited logical/mathematical skills. In addition, in focusing exclusively on degrees of confidence, the Bayesian approach tells us nothing about the epistemic status of the doxastic states epistemologists have traditionally been concerned about—categorical beliefs. Kaplan's purpose is twofold. First, he aims to show that, as powerful as many of such criticisms are against orthodox Bayesianism, there is a credible kind of Bayesianism. Without appeal to idealization or false precision, it offers a substantive account of how the probability calculus constrains the (imprecise) opinions of actual persons and of how this account impinges on traditional epistemological concerns. Second, he aims to show how this Bayesianism finds a foundation in considerations concerning rational preference.
"Embodiment and Epistemology," Louise Antony considers a kind of "Cartesian
epistemology" according to which, so far as knowing goes, knowers could be
completely disembodied, that is, pure Cartesian egos. Cartesian epistemology
thus attributes little, if any, cognitive significance to a knower's embodiment.
In "Epistemology and Ethics," Noah Lemos suggests that moral epistemology is mainly concerned with "whether and how we can have knowledge or justified belief" about moral issues. Lemos presents and replies to several problems that arise in this connection. He addresses arguments for ethical skepticism, the view that we cannot have moral knowledge or justified belief. Assuming that we can have moral knowledge, he considers how the moral epistemologist and moral philosopher should begin their account of this knowledge. Lemos favors a particularist approach whereby we begin with instances of moral knowledge and use these to formulate and evaluate criteria for moral knowledge. He relates his approach to concerns about the nature of the epistemic justification of moral beliefs as dealt with by foundationalists and coherentists. Lemos concludes his essay by responding to arguments against particularist approaches in moral epistemology. Specifically, he addresses the claim that our moral beliefs must receive their justification from an independent moral criterion developed from nonmoral beliefs.
In "Epistemology in Philosophy of Religion," Philip Quinn focuses on the central problem of religious epistemology for monotheistic religions: the epistemic status of belief in the existence of God. His essay divides into two main sections. The first discusses arguments for God's existence. Quinn explores what epistemic conditions such arguments would have to satisfy to be successful and whether any arguments satisfy those conditions. He considers at length recent versions of the ontological and cosmological arguments, and then turns to inductive and cumulative-case arguments. The second section examines the claims of Reformed Epistemology about belief in God. It assesses Alvin Plantinga's claim that belief in God is for many theists properly basic, that is, has positive epistemic status even when it is not based on arguments or any other kind of propositional evidence. Quinn distinguishes two versions of this claim. According to the first, emphasized in Plantinga's earlier work, theistic belief is properly basic with respect to justification or rationality. Quinn gives this claim detailed critical examination. According to the second version, prominent in Plantinga's more recent work, theistic belief is properly basic with respect to warrant. Quinn addresses this version more briefly.
In "Formal Problems about Knowledge," Roy Sorensen examines epistemological issues that have logical aspects. He illustrates the hopes of the modal logicians who developed epistemic logic with Fitch's proof for unknowables and the surprise-test paradox. He considers the epistemology of proof with the help of the knower paradox. One solution to this paradox is that knowledge is not closed under deduction. Sorensen reviews the broader history of this maneuver along with the relevant-alternatives model of knowledge. This model assumes that "know" is an absolute term like "flat." Sorensen argues that epistemic absolute terms differ from extensional absolute terms by virtue of their sensitivity to the completeness of the alternatives. This asymmetry, according to Sorensen, under-mines recent claims that there is a structural parallel between the supervaluational and epistemicist theories of vagueness. He also suggests that we have overestimated the ability of logical demonstration to produce knowledge.
The Oxford Handbook of Free Will by Robert Kane (Editor)
(Oxford University Press) The problem of free will arguably remains the most
voluminously debated of all philosophical problems. Indeed, debates about free
will and necessity (or determinism) expanded to an all-time height in the
twentieth century. Yet this growth has made it difficult for philosophers and
students of philosophy to keep abreast of the latest research and developments.
The Oxford Handbook of Free Will offers a timely and useful remedy to this problem. Editor Robert Kane has assembled a stellar group of contributors who discuss, analyze, and challenge current debates about free will from every conceivable angle. The resulting reference work is both a sourcebook and a guide to the most recent work in the area and is invaluable for any scholar interested in the field today. It emphasizes contemporary studies, focusing on work of the past thirty to forty years, when new developments in the sciences, philosophy, and humanistic studies caused interest to peak in traditional issues about free will.
Including superb essays by a range of scholars —from senior scholars to younger authors just beginning to make significant contributions—this volume is an essential reference for all philosophers and philosophy libraries. With a timely overview of the entire field that identifies and cross-references specific controversies, it is a valuable source for students as well.
This is a sourcebook. Each essay can be read on its own and the references within each essay direct the reader to further writings in that topic area. While the essays can be read in any order, some naturally go together and are grouped into sections, guided by the three central questions discussed in this introduction.
The Determinist Question. The first four essays consider various determinist threats to free will and the contemporary debates they have generated, from theological and fatalist doctrines that posed the earliest threats (part I: essays of Zagzebski and Bernstein) to considerations of determinism and indeterminism in the modern physical sciences (part II: essays by Hodgson and Bishop).
The Compatibility Question. The Modal or Consequence Argument for incompatibilism, the most widely discussed recent argument for the incompatibility of free will and determinism, is discussed in part III (essays by Kapitan and van Inwagen). Part IV considers compatibilist responses to the Consequence Argument and surveys a variety of contemporary compatibilist perspectives on freedom and responsibility (essays by Berofsky, Haji, Russell and Taylor and Dennett). Part V considers issues about moral responsibility and alternative possibilities posed by so called "Frankfurt-style examples" and discusses doctrines of "semicompatibilism" (essays by Fischer, Ekstrom, and Widerker).
The Intelligibility Question. The essays of Part VI consider various incompatibilist or libertarian perspectives on free will and agency and address the question of whether traditional doctrines of free will that require indeterminism can be made intelligible. They also consider issues about the nature and explanation of action, the relation of reasons to causes, control, rationality, and metaphysical issues about mind and body, agency and personhood (essays by O'Connor, Clarke, Ginet and Kane).
Part VII considers recent nonstandard views on free will, including Successor Views to hard determinism. The essays of this part also discuss a variety of further topics related to free will, including metaethical issues about the objectivity and subjectivity of value, morality and ultimate desert, criminal punishment, autonomy, self-control and weakness of will, illusion, and metaphilosophy (essays by Strawson, Honderich, Pereboom, Smilansky, Double, and Mele).
Finally, Part VIII takes a look at all three questions—determinism, compatibility, and intelligibility—from the perspective of the neurosciences, which have begun to influence debates about free will in the past decade and are likely to have further influence in the immediate future (essays by Libet and Walter).
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