•  3
    Hume on Local Conjunction and the Soul
    History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis 13 (1): 122-130. 2010.
    In the section of the Treatise titled ‘Of the immateriality of the soul’, Hume adduces an argument to show that nothing can be ‘locally conjoined’ with all of a person’s perceptions. The argument is seldom discussed, and deserves attention, mainly because it can be transformed into an argument against the very existence of a soul. In this paper, I present and closely examine both arguments, Hume’s argument and the one against the existence of the soul. Both, I conclude, are fallacious. In dem Ab…Read more
  •  160
    It is possible that a fair coin tossed infinitely many times will always land heads. So the probability of such a sequence of outcomes should, intuitively, be positive, albeit miniscule: 0 probability ought to be reserved for impossible events. And, furthermore, since the tosses are independent and the probability of heads (and tails) on a single toss is half, all sequences are equiprobable. But Williamson has adduced an argument that purports to show that our intuitions notwithstanding, the pro…Read more
  •  44
    Peer disagreement and counter-examples
    Philosophical Studies 177 (7): 1773-1790. 2020.
    Two kinds of considerations are thought to be relevant to the correct response to the discovery of a peer who disagrees with you about some question. The first is general principles pertaining to disagreement. According to the second kind of consideration, a theory about the correct response to peer disagreement must conform to our intuitions about test cases. In this paper, I argue against the assumption that imperfect conformity to our intuitions about test cases must count against a theory ab…Read more
  •  24
    A Hume-Inspired Argument against Reason
    International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 9 (1): 1-20. 2019.
    In the “diminution argument,” which Hume adduces in the Treatise section “Scepticism with Regard to Reason,” he infers from our universal fallibility that “all the rules of logic require a continual diminution, and at last a total extinction of belief and evidence.” My aim in this paper is, first, to show that on all extant interpretations of the argument, it turns out to be very weak, and, second, that there is in the vicinity a significant sceptical argument in support of the conclusion that a…Read more
  •  54
    A new solution to the problem of peer disagreement
    Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 63 (8): 795-811. 2020.
    ABSTRACT In this paper, I defend a new solution to the problem of peer disagreement, the question as to how you should respond when you learn that your ‘epistemic peer’ disagrees with you about some issue. I consider four test cases that together impugn every extant full-blown theory about peer disagreement. I present my own solution, show that it delivers the intuitive verdict in the test cases and address some objections.
  •  25
    The Problem of Induction Dissolved; But are we better off?
    American Philosophical Quarterly 53 (1): 69-84. 2016.
    I begin by making some distinctions between kinds of response to a skeptical claim, the purpose of which is to explain what I mean by a "dissolution" of the problem of induction, and to focus on one of the ways it can be implemented. I then argue that previous attempts to dissolve the problem in this way fail, present mine, and defend it. Finally, I show that the dissolution of the problem doesn't improve our normative situation and may even worsen it.
  •  24
    Naturalism, Explanation, and Akrasia
    Dialogue 38 (1): 63-74. 1999.
    RÉSUMÉ: Si on la définit comme une action contraire au bon jugement de l'agent, l'action acrasique se trouve exclue par le principe selon lequel une personne a forcément l'intention de faire ce qu'elle juge devoir faire. Une fois ce principe rejeté, comme je le propose ici, le problème traditionnel de l'acrasie, qui est celui de sa possibilité même, s'évanouit. Je soutiens, cependant, qu'un problème plus limité semble se poser si nous admettons que les actions acrasiques doivent s'expliquer par …Read more
  •  173
    A Problem for Hume’s Theory of Induction
    Hume Studies 34 (2): 169-187. 2008.
    According to Hume, the paradigm type of inductive reasoning involves a constant conjunction. But, as Price points out, Hume misrepresents ordinary induction: we experience very few constant conjunctions. In this paper, I examine several ways of defending Hume’s account of our practice against Price’s objection, and conclude that the theory cannot be upheld.
  •  66
    The spatiality of the mental and the mind-body problem
    Synthese 117 (3): 409-17. 1998.
    I consider a seemingly attractive strategy for grappling with the mind-body problem. It is often thought that materialists are committed to spatially locating mental events, whereas dualists are barred from so doing. The thought naturally arises, then, that reasons for or against the spatiality of the mental may be wielded to adjudicate between the different positions in the mind-body dispute. Showing that mental events are spatially located, it may be thought, is ipso facto showing the truth of…Read more
  •  336
    Epistemology without knowledge?
    Ratio 4 (2): 157-169. 1991.
    Epistemologists have traditionally been concerned with two issues: the justification of particular beliefs or sets of beliefs, and claims to knowledge. I propose to examine the relative import of these questions by comparing the gravity of the threat posed by two sceptics: one who questions the justifiability of our beliefs, and one who doubts our knowledge claims.
  •  44
    The Cartesian Circle and Two Forms of Scepticism
    History of Philosophy Quarterly 14 (4). 1997.
    Descartes’ circle has been extensively discussed, and I do not wish to add another paper to that literature. Rather, I use the circle to facilitate our understanding of two types of scepticism and the proper attitude to them. Descartes’ text is especially apt for this purpose, because a case can be made for attributing to him both types. Although I will touch on the interpretative question, that is not my main aim. My contention is that one brand - whether or not it is the one that Descartes fav…Read more
  •  53
    On sharp boundaries for vague terms
    Synthese 138 (2). 2004.
    The postulation by the “epistemic” theory of vagueness of a cut-off point between heaps and non-heaps has made it seem incredible. Surely, the critics argue, a vague predicate doesn’t divide the universe into a set and its complement. I argue in response that an objection of a similar kind can be leveled against most theories of vagueness. The only two which avoid it are untenable. The objection is less compelling than it initially seems. However, even when this obstacle is removed, the epistemi…Read more
  •  39
    Hume’s nominalism and the Copy Principle
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 42 (S1): 45-54. 2012.
    In this paper, I consider some ways in which the Copy Principle and Hume’s nominalism impinge on one another, concluding that the marriage is not a happy one. I argue for the following claims. First, Hume’s argument against indeterminate ideas isn’t cogent even if the Copy Principle is accepted. But this does not vindicate Locke: the imagistic conception of ideas, presupposed by the Copy Principle, will force Locke to accept something like Hume’s view of the way general terms function, the avail…Read more
  •  113
    Desire as belief, Lewis notwithstanding
    Analysis 67 (2): 116-122. 2007.
    In two curiously neglected papers, David Lewis claims to reduce to absurdity the supposition (commonly labeled DAB) that (some) desires are belief-like. My aim in this paper is to explain the significance of this claim and rebut the proof.
  •  95
    What Descartes' Demon Can Do and his Dream Cannot
    Theoria 72 (4): 319-335. 2006.
    The reason Descartes cites for invoking the demon argument in addition to the dream argument is that the demon argument is intended to broaden the scope of Descartes’ scepticism, to subsume additional beliefs under it. I present an additional, unfamiliar reason. There is, I argue, an important difference between the two sceptical arguments. It pertains not to their scope, but to their “depth”, to the kind of scepticism they are capable of inducing.
  •  35
    A Humean Conundrum
    Hume Studies 31 (2): 211-224. 2005.
    Hume’s Copy Principle, which accords precedence to impressions over ideas, is restricted to simple perceptions. Yet in all the conceptual analyses Hume conducts by attempting to fit an impression to a (putative) idea, he never checks for simplicity. And this seems to vitiate the analyses: we cannot conclude from the lack of a preceding impression that a putative idea is bogus, unless it is simple. In this paper I criticise several attempts to account for Hume’s seemingly cavalier attitude, and o…Read more
  •  40
    The naturalistic response to scepticism
    Philosophy 78 (3): 369-386. 2003.
    Hume is sometimes thought to provide a ‘naturalistic’ response to the sceptic. I consider two ways in which this response may be construed. According to the first, the fact that we are psychologically determined to hold a belief provides it with justification. According to the second, ‘natural’ beliefs provide limits within which reason can legitimately be employed, limits which the sceptic transgresses when he attempts to defend his position. Both versions of the naturalistic response to scepti…Read more
  •  320
    Skepticism about Induction
    In John Greco (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Skepticism, Oxford University Press. pp. 129. 2008.
    This article considers two arguments that purport to show that inductive reasoning is unjustified: the argument adduced by Sextus Empiricus and the (better known and more formidable) argument given by Hume in the Treatise. While Sextus’ argument can quite easily be rebutted, a close examination of the premises of Hume’s argument shows that they are seemingly cogent. Because the sceptical claim is very unintuitive, the sceptical argument constitutes a paradox. And since attributions of justificat…Read more
  •  27
    Logical knowledge
    International Journal of Philosophical Studies 9 (1). 2001.
    It seems obvious that our beliefs are logically imperfect in two ways: they are neither deductively closed nor logically consistent. But this common-sense truism has been judged erroneous by some philosophers in the light of various arguments. In defence of common sense I consider and rebut interpretative arguments for logical perfection and show that the assumption espoused by common sense is theoretically superior, and capable - unlike its rival - of accounting for the informativeness of mathe…Read more
  •  105
    Fallibilism and rational belief
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (2): 251-261. 1993.
    Fallibilism is an attractive epistemological position, avoiding the Scylla of rationalism, and the Charybdis of scepticism. Acknowledging, on the one hand, human imperfection, yet claiming that science and rational inquiry are possible. Fallibilism is a thesis, but equally importantly – an epistemological recommendation. that we should never be absolutely sure of anything. My aim in this paper is to drive a wedge between the thesis and the recommendation. The (eminently plausible) doctrine, I s…Read more
  •  60
    A paradox of confirmation
    Erkenntnis 29 (2). 1988.
    I present a puzzle which seems simple, but is found to have interesting implications for confirmation. Its dissolution also helps us to throw light on the relationship between first- and second-order probabilities construed as rational degrees of belief.
  •  124
    The time of a killing
    Analysis 63 (3): 178-182. 2003.
    Suppose Jones pulls the trigger at t1, releasing a bullet which hits Smith, who dies, as a result of the wound, at t2. If we suppose the killing lasts for as long as it takes Jones to pull the trigger, we implausibly accept that the killing is over before Smith dies. If we say, instead, that the killing is over only when Smith is dead, we must suppose - equally implausibly - that Jones can still be killing Smith when he (Jones) is already otherwise engaged or even dead. I aim both to explain our…Read more
  •  36
    In this paper I consider the surprise examination paradox from a practical perspective, paying special attention to the communicative role of the teacher’s promise to the students. This perspective, which places the promise within a practice, rather than viewing it in the abstract, imposes constraints on adequate solutions to the paradox. In the light of these constraints, I examine various solutions which have been offered, and suggest two of my own.
  •  61
    The credibility of miracles
    Philosophical Studies 82 (3). 1996.
    Hume’s famous argument against the credibility of testimony about miracles invokes two premises: 1) The reliability of the witness (the extent to which he is informed and truthful) must be compared with the intrinsic probability of the miracle. 2) The initial probability of a miracle is always small enough to outweigh the improbability that the testimony is false (even when the witness is assumed to be reliable). I defend the first premise of the argument, showing that Hume’s argument can be app…Read more
  •  28
    Objectivism without objective probabilities
    Theoria 56 (1-2): 23-41. 1990.
    After defending the pluralistic approach to the interpretation of probability statements, I argue that the correctness of objective probability statements is not to be explained in terms of objective probabilities attached to propositions. Such an explanation will enable us to uphold an intuitively appealing connection between probability and action only in indeterministic contexts, whereas the objectivity of probability statements doesn’t depend on the truth of indeterminism. I show how objecti…Read more
  •  1
    Hume on Local Conjunction and the Soul
    History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis 13. 2010.
    In the section of the Treatise titled “Of the immateriality of the soul”, Hume adduces an argument to show that nothing can be “locally conjoined” with all of a person’s perceptions. The argument is seldom discussed, and deserves attention, mainly because it can be transformed into an argument against the very existence of a soul. In this paper, I present and closely examine both arguments, Hume’s argument and the one against the existence of the soul. Both, I conclude, are fallacious.
  • Dispositionalism and Decision
    Ratio (Misc.) 29 (2): 148. 1987.
  •  272
    What was Hume's contribution to the problem of induction?
    Philosophical Quarterly 45 (181): 460-470. 1995.
    There are very few philosophical issues which are so intimately associated with one single philosopher as is the problem of induction with Hume. This paper argues against this received opinion. It shows that Hume was neither the first to think induction problematic, nor the originator of the argument he adduced in support of the (sceptical) position. It then explains his (more modest) contribution. Its primary concern, however, is not historical. By considering Hume’s contribution to the problem…Read more
  •  31
    A New Humean Criticism of Our Inductive Practice
    The European Legacy 18 (4): 420-431. 2013.
    Hume?s familiar sceptical argument against induction brands as irrational our practice of generalising from observed regularities because of its reliance on the assumption that nature is uniform, an assumption which is unjustifiable. The argument which I wish to consider focuses instead on the observed regularities that are required if we are legitimately to extrapolate from experience. According to Hume, the paradigm type of inductive reasoning involves a constant conjunction. But in fact we do…Read more
  •  39
    The Sceptical Challenge
    Routledge. 1997.
    Do we really know the things we think we know? Are any of our beliefs reasonable? Scepticism gives a pessimistic reply to these important epistemological questions - we don't know anything; none of our beliefs are reasonable. But can such a seemingly paradoxical claim be more than an intellectual curiousity? And if it is, can it be refuted? Ruth Weintraub answers yes to both these questions. The sceptical challenge is a formidable one, and should be confronted, not dismissed. The theoretical and…Read more