The Impossibility of Skepticism
Epistemologists and philosophers of mind both ask questions about belief. Epistemologists ask normative questions about belief—which beliefs ought we to have? Philosophers of mind ask metaphysical questions about belief—what are beliefs, and what does it take to have them? While these issues might seem independent of one another, there is potential for an interesting sort of conflict: the epistemologist might think we ought to have beliefs that, according to the philosopher of mind, it is impossible to have. This essay argues that this conflict does arise and that it creates problems for traditional skeptical views in epistemology. In particular, it argues that on certain popular views about the nature of belief, it is impossible to adopt the near-global agnosticism recommended by the skeptical epistemologist. On other plausible views, it is possible only in special circumstances, and this limitation undermines skeptical epistemological claims. The only views about the nature of belief on which there are no metaphysical hurdles to adopting the agnosticism recommended by the skeptic are views that face powerful objections—objections that are completely independent of antiskeptical epistemological considerations.
Reference and Monstrosity
According to the orthodox account developed by Kaplan, indexicals like I, you, and now invariably refer to elements of the context of speech. This essay argues that the orthodoxy is wrong. I, you, and the like are shifted by certain modal operators and hence can fail to refer to elements of the context, for example, I can fail to refer to the speaker. More precisely, indexicals are syntactically akin to logical variables. They can be free, in which case they work, roughly, on the Kaplan model. But they can also be bound: this happens, in a systematic fashion, when they are in the scope of epistemic modals or attitude verbs. The new view has two interesting philosophical consequences. First, it vindicates a broadly Fregean perspective on referential expressions, essentially refuting the idea that indexicals are rigid designators. Second, it suggests a new picture of the interaction between context and linguistic meaning: compositional semantics does not need to look at the context and hence has no need for a context parameter.
Subjectivism without Desire
Subjectivism about well-being holds that is intrinsically good for x if and only if, and to the extent that, is valued, under the proper conditions, by x. Given this statement of the view, there is room for intramural dissent among subjectivists. One important source of dispute is the phrase "under the proper conditions": Should the proper conditions of valuing be actual or idealized? What sort of idealization is appropriate? And so forth. Though these concerns are of the first importance, this essay focuses on a second source of dispute. As stated, subjectivists must account for what it means for an individual x to value under any conditions. Though there has been some disagreement, most subjectivists hold that x values if and only if x desires . This essay argues that subjectivists have erred in accepting a desiderative theory of valuing. Instead, it argues that subjectivists should hold that x values to the extent that x judges or believes that is good for x. The resulting "judgment subjectivism" is intuitively superior to, and maintains important structural advantages over, its desiderative rival.
Diachronic Dutch Book Arguments