We will start off the year with a mix of recent papers in metaphysics, language, and epistemology. Here is the list of papers we will be reading each week:
- Dasgupta – Metaphysical Rationalism
- Abstract: The Principle of Sufficient Reason states that everything has an explanation. But different notions of explanation yield different versions of this principle. Here a version is formulated in terms of the notion of a “grounding” explanation. Its consequences are then explored, with particular emphasis on the fact that it implies necessitarianism, the view that every truth is necessarily true. Finally, the principle is defended from a number of objections, including objections to necessitarianism. The result is a defense of a “rationalist” metaphysics, one that constitutes an alternative to the contemporary dogmas that some aspects of the world are “metaphysically brute” and that the world could in so many ways have been different.
- Dixon – What Is the Well-Foundedness of Grounding?
- Abstract: A number of philosophers think that grounding is, in some sense, well-founded. This thesis, however, is not always articulated precisely, nor is there a consensus in the literature as to how it should be characterized. In what follows, I consider several principles that one might have in mind when asserting that grounding is well-founded, and I argue that one of these principles, which I call ‘full foundations’, best captures the relevant claim. My argument is by the process of elimination. For each of the inadequate principles, I illustrate its inadequacy by showing either that it excludes cases that should not be ruled out by a well-foundedness axiom for grounding, or that it admits cases that should be ruled out.
- Arthur Prior – A Family of Paradoxes
- Rayo – Essence Without Fundamentality
- Abstract: I argue for a conception of essence that does not rely on distinctions of metaphysical fundamentality.
- Salow & Goodman – Taking a chance on KK
- Abstract: Dorr et al. (Philos Stud 170:277–287, 2014) present a case that poses a challenge for a number of plausible principles about knowledge and objective chance. Implicit in their discussion is an interesting new argument against KK, the principle that anyone who knows p is in a position to know that they know p. We bring out this argument, and investigate possible responses for defenders of KK, establishing new connections between KK and various knowledge-chance principles.
- Necessities and Necessary Truths
- Abstract: In philosophical logic necessity is usually conceived as a sentential operator rather than as a predicate. An intensional sentential operator does not allow one to express quantified statements such as ‘There are necessary a posteriori propositions’ or ‘All laws of physics are necessary’ in first-order logic in a straightforward way, while they are readily formalized if necessity is formalized by a predicate. Replacing the operator conception of necessity by the predicate conception, however, causes various problems and forces one to reject many philosophical accounts involving necessity that are based on the use of operator modal logic. We argue that the expressive power of the predicate account can be restored if a truth predicate is added to the language of first-order modal logic, because the predicate ‘is necessary’ can then be replaced by ‘is necessarily true’. We prove a result showing that this substitution is technically feasible. To this end we provide partial possible-worlds semantics for the language with a predicate of necessity and perform the reduction of necessities to necessary truths. The technique applies also to many other intensional notions that have been analysed by means of modal operators.
- Mandelkern et al – Agentive Modals
- Abstract: We propose a new theory of agentive modals: ability modals and their duals, compulsion modals. After criticizing existing approaches − the existential quantificational analysis, the universal quantificational analysis, and the conditional analysis − we present a new account that builds on both the existential and conditional analyses. On our account, the act conditional analysis, a sentence like ‘John can swim across the river’ says that there is some practically available action (in a sense we make precise) which is such that, if John tries to do it, he swims across the river. We argue that the act conditional analysis avoids the problems faced by existing accounts of agentive modality, and show how it can be extended to an account of generic agentive modal claims. The upshot is a new vantage point on the role of agentive modal ascriptions in practical discourse: ability ascriptions serve as a kind of hypothetical guarantee, and compulsion ascriptions as a kind of non-hypothetical guarantee.
- Alex Paseau – What is the point in complete rigour?
- Abstract: Complete inferential rigour is achieved by breaking down arguments into steps that are as small as possible: inferential ‘atoms’. For example, a mathematical or philosophical argument may be made completely inferentially rigorous (‘atomized’) by decomposing its inferential steps into the type of step found in a natural deduction system. It is commonly thought that atomization, paradigmatically in mathematics but also more generally, is pro tanto epistemically valuable. The paper considers some plausible candidates for the epistemic value arising from atomization and finds that none of them fits the bill. In particular, atomized arguments do not ground the correctness of their unatomized counterparts; they are typically not credence-preserving; and they need not reveal the source of inferential disagreement. The moral this suggests is that complete rigour is not even a defeasible epistemic ideal.
Jeff Russell – Temporary Safety Hazards
The Epistemic Objection says that certain theories of time (like the “growing block” and “moving spotlight”) imply that it is impossible to know which time is absolutely present. Standard presentations of the Epistemic Objection are elliptical—and some of the most natural premises one might fill in to complete the argument end up leading to radical skepticism. But there is a way of filling in the details which avoids this problem, using epistemic safety. The new version has two interesting upshots. First, while Ross Cameron alleges that the Epistemic Objection applies to presentism as much as to theories like the growing block, the safety version does not overgeneralize this way. Second, the Epistemic Objection does generalize in a different, overlooked way. The safety objection is a serious problem for a widely held combination of views: “propositional temporalism” (objects of belief change truth-value) together with “metaphysical eternalism” (the world does not objectively privilege any particular time).