Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Atheist's Nightmare: The Banana

Thanks to Aidan's the boundaries of language, I've just been enlightened. Just irrefutable.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Worlds and Times Enough or Locations?

(X-posted from the Arché Weblog.)

Some time ago we discussed Andy Egan’s ‘Second-Order Predication and the Metaphysics of Properties’ (AJP 82 (2004), 4867), at the St Andrews Metaphysics Reading Group in a couple of sessions.

In the paper, it is argued that properties should be identified with functions from worlds to extensions, as a way of solving the following problem: If properties are sets of (possible) instances, things that exist in more than one world can’t have any of their properties contingently. Properties like being green exists in more than one world, but have some properties contingently: being somebody’s favourite property.

Then, although more tentatively, it is argued that properties should be identified with functions from worlds and times to extensions, as a way of solving the following problem: If properties are functions from worlds to extensions, then things without temporal parts can’t have any of their properties at some but not other times. Properties like being bent don’t have temporal parts, but have some properties at some but not other times: being coinstantiated with being hungry.

I think I am generally sympathetic, but I was concerned that the same kind of reasoning would also motivate that properties should be identified with functions from worlds and times and places (or locations, for short) to extensions. After all, (i) “Second-order predication” of properties such as having many instances around seem to pose similar problems to the world-time proposal, by being possibly true at some places but not others; (ii) there seem to be parallel cases of spatially self-locating attitudes; and (iii) the response to Lewis' concern seems similarly effective as to defend the world-time-place proposal from the charge that these are relations rather than properties.

Any views?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Issues concerning Women in Philosophy in the UK

Jennifer Saul has just announced that the Society for Women in Philosophy UK now has a mailing list. Anyone who is interested in issues concerning women in philosophy in the UK is welcome to join. To do so, go to < http://lists.shef.ac.uk/sympa/info/swip-uk>. If you're not a member of the University of Sheffield, you'll need to get a login and password first, which takes mere seconds. You can do this at the left-hand side of the page.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Are Factive Verbs a Myth?

I’ve just came back from 2007 Rutgers Epistemology Conference. The one that interested me most was Allan Hazlett’s ‘The Myth of Factive Verbs,’ winner of the 2007 Young Epistemologist Prize and forthcoming in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. I’m afraid I disagree, however.

Allan argues against the orthodox view among philosophers that certain two-place predicates—‘knows’, ‘learns’, ‘remembers’, and ‘realizes’, for example—are factive in the sense that an utterance of ‘S knows p’ is true only if p, that an utterance of ‘S learned p’ is true only if p, and so on. He presents two consideration aimed to constitute a prima facie case against orthodoxy, and then discusses and rejects certain arguments in favor of orthodoxy.

I found the two considerations less than fully compelling. The first depends on the contention that “if the orthodox view is true, then we should expect the claim that all known propositions are true to be obvious to anyone who knows the meaning of ‘knows’” (p. 2). But on the face of it, this seems to unduly equate something like ‘analyticity’ with the obvious: the fact that ‘remembers’ or ‘sees’ might not be obviously factive for some competent users is clearly compatible with their being indeed factive all the same. As to the second, and as pointed out by several people in the discussion at Rutgers, it seems to depend on a too narrow conception of the phenomenon of loose talk.

It would be argued, however, that if the typical arguments for orthodoxy fail, this is remarkable regardless of the issue as to whether there is or not an antecedent prima facie case against it. The main one discussed by Allan is quite straightforward:

The appearance of contradiction. Someone who says ‘I know p, but not-p’ contradicts herself. Therefore, knowledge is factive. Mutatis mutandis for learning, remembering, realizing. (p. 6)

To which he replies:

‘I know p, but not-p’ is not contradictory, but an utterance of it is Moore paradoxical—to know that p is to believe that p, and ‘I believe p, but not-p’ is paradigmatically Moore paradoxical. (p. 6)

One typical way of arguing that ‘I believe p, but not-p’ is not contradictory, however, concerns the fact that is aproblematically OK when turned into the third person: ‘She believes p, but she’s completely wrong: not-p.’ In the case of ‘know,’ by contrast, it sounds exactly as bad as the original first-person version: ‘She knows p, but she’s completely wrong: not-p.’

Allan anticipates this objection, and says:

In §4 I outline what I think are some correct proposals concerning the pragmatics of the use of ‘knows’—and there I maintain that an utterance of ‘S knows p’ typically implies that p is true. I think this goes some way towards explaining why ‘S knows p, but not-p’ often sounds improper. (p.6)

Section §4, however, offers a "Gricean" account of the “implication” which exploits that knowing requires believing and a sufficient quantity of epistemic justification for one’s belief. But even in cases where S clearly satisfies both it would still sound contradictory to assert ‘S knows p, but not-p.’

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Schaffer on Furnishing Functions

(X-posted from The bLOGOS.)

In a part of ‘Ontological Anti-Realism’ which I didn’t comment on (§§8-11), David Chalmers considers an objection against anti-realism based on the idea that the absolute unrestricted quantifier has an objective, determinate semantic value. I don’t want to assess his response to the objection here (see related discussion here, and references there).

In order to analyse existence assertions, however, he tentatively introduces the notion of a furnished world—an ordered pair of a world and a domain—and a furnishing function—a mapping from worlds to domains—(see the end of §8).

In his comments to the paper, Jonathan Schaffer objects:

The argument for heavyweight realism about fundamental structure: Furnishing functions are maps from a world to a domain. But a function is a map from one structure (‘the input’) to another (‘the output’). One cannot have a well-defined function without there being some articulated structure to the input. In particular we must be able to specify the arguments of the function. Any function is either complete or partial. It is either injective or not. It is either surjective or not. None of these classifications would make sense unless the input (‘the world’) already comes with some fundamental articulated structure inbuilt, to feed into the function. … I conclude that the framework that Chalmers actually supplies is at least half-realist, in the sense that it presupposes heavyweight realism about fundamental structure. (pp. 2-3)

I am probably missing something here. For I understood that a furnishing function was a map from the class of worlds to the class of domains, whose arguments were precisely just worlds. Thus I don’t see why there being such mappings requires in any sense any “articulated structure” in the items to which the function is applied. Can anyone help?