•  51
    Observation and Induction
    Logos and Episteme 1 (2): 303-324. 2010.
    This article offers a simple technical resolution to the problem of induction, which is to say that general facts are not always inferred from observations of particular facts, but are themselves sometimes defeasibly observed. The article suggests a holistic account of observation that allows for general statements in empirical theories to be interpreted as observation reports, in place of the common but arguably obsolete idea that observations are exclusively particular. Predictions and other…Read more
  •  366
    Other Minds and the Origins of Consciousness
    Anthropology and Philosophy 11. 2014/2015.
    Why are we conscious? What does consciousness enable us to do that cannot be done by zombies in the dark? This paper argues that introspective consciousness probably co-evolved as a "spandrel" along with our more useful ability to represent the mental states of other people. The first part of the paper defines and motivates a conception of consciousness as a kind of "double vision" – the perception of how things seem to us as well as what they are – along lines recently explored by Peter Carr…Read more
  •  165
    Are There Non-Existent Entities?
    In Larry Lee Blackman (ed.), The Philosophy of Panayot Butchvarov: a collegial evaluation, Edwin Mellen Press. pp. 3-19. 2005.
    There are things of which it is true to say that there are no such things. How can we resolve this paradox? Panayot Butchvarov argues that there are objects of reference that are not also entities, where the former must merely be thinkable but the latter must be indefinitely re-identifiable. This paper argues that fictional and many other unreal objects are indeed indefinitely re-identifiable, so they must be counted as existing things on Butchvarov's theory. The paradox is best resolved by …Read more
  •  162
    Other voices, other minds
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 78 (2): 213-222. 2000.
    Solipsism can be refuted along fairly traditional, internalist lines, by means of a second-order induction. We are justified in believing in other minds, because other people tell us that they have minds, and we have good inductive reason to believe that whatever certain others say is likely to be true. This simple argument is sound, the author argues, even though we are in no prior position to believe that other thinking people exist as such, or that the sounds they make have any meaning. The m…Read more
  •  90
    When you and I seriously argue over whether a man of seventy is old enough to count as an "old man", it seems that we are appealing neither to our own separate standards of oldness nor to a common standard that is already fixed in the language. Instead, it seems that both of us implicitly invoke an ideal, shared standard that has yet to be agreed upon: the place where we ought to draw the line. As with other normative standards, it is hard to know whether such borderlines exist prior to our co…Read more
  •  249
    In this paper I provide some formal schemas for the analysis of vague predicates in terms of a set of semantic relations other than classical synonymy, including weak synonymy (as between "large" and "huge"), antonymy (as between "large" and "small"), relativity (as between "large" and "large for a dog"), and a kind of supervenience (as between "large" and "wide" or "long"). All of these relations are representable in the simple comparative logic CL, in accordance with the basic formula: the mor…Read more
  •  166
    Peer Disagreement and Two Principles of Rational Belief
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (2): 273-286. 2015.
    This paper presents a new solution to the problem of peer disagreement that distinguishes two principles of rational belief, here called probability and autonomy. When we discover that we disagree with peers, there is one sense in which we rationally ought to suspend belief, and another in which we rationally ought to retain our original belief. In the first sense, we aim to believe what is most probably true according to our total evidence, including testimony from peers and authorities. In the…Read more
  •  142
    Antiskeptical conditionals
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 (3). 2006.
    Empirical knowledge exists in the form of antiskeptical conditionals, which are propositions like [if I am not undetectably deceived, then I am holding a pen]. Such conditionals, despite their trivial appearance, have the same essential content as the categorical propositions that we usually discuss, and can serve the same functions in science and practical reasoning. This paper sketches out two versions of a general response to skepticism that employs these conditionals. The first says that our…Read more
  •  272
    Justice and Gini coefficients
    with Bruce M. Everett
    Politics, Philosophy and Economics 14 (2): 187-208. 2015.
    Gini coefficients, which measure gross inequalities rather than their unfair components, are often used as proxy measures of absolute or relative distributive injustice in Western societies. This presupposes that the fair inequalities in these societies are small and stable enough to be ignored. This article presents a model for a series of ideal, perfectly just societies, where comfortable lives are equally available to everyone, and calculates the Gini coefficients for each. According to this …Read more
  •  233
    The rationality of science and the rationality of faith
    Journal of Philosophy 98 (1): 19-42. 2001.
    Why is science so rare and faith so common in human history? Traditional cultures persist because it is subjectively rational for each maturing child to defer to the unanimous beliefs of his elders, regardless of any personal doubts. Science is possible only when individuals promote new theories (which will probably be proven false) and forgo the epistemic advantages of accepting established views (which are more likely to be true). Hence, progressive science must rely upon the epistemic altr…Read more
  •  318
    A simple logic for comparisons and vagueness
    Synthese 123 (2): 263-278. 2000.
    This article provide an intuitive semantic account of a new logic for comparisons (CL), in which atomic statements are assigned both a classical truth-value and a “how much” value or extension in the range [0, 1]. The truth-value of each comparison is determined by the extensions of its component sentences; the truth-value of each atomic depends on whether its extension matches a separate standard for its predicate; everything else is computed classically. CL is less radical than Casari’s compar…Read more