Normal, Illinois, United States of America
Areas of Interest

My philosophical views

Question Answer Comments
A priori knowledge: yes and no Accept: no We cannot know about the world except by looking at it.
Abstract objects: Platonism and nominalism Accept: nominalism The categories we hold in our minds are the categories we hold in our minds. There is no "higher realm" in which the names of things objectively denote "thing-ness" in any connotation-free way.
Aesthetic value: objective and subjective Accept: subjective While we can certainly lay out objective criteria for aesthetic values, the basis on which we assign those "objective" criteria is inextricably subjective.
Analytic-synthetic distinction: yes and no Lean toward: yes The analytic-synthetic distinction is one of those things where it seems like we ought to be able to draw a hard and fast line, yet we cannot. Words, and the categories we make with them, are ultimately artifacts: therefore, anything we take the time to do with them is ultimately artificial. While there are lots of interesting isolated cases to write papers and stuff on, the fact of the matter comes down to that some statements do boil down to mere language games, while others at least gesture at the "outside" world (and words being artifacts, we should at least take those gestures seriously). While we can't ever get "outside" our own heads or "away" from the ultimately internal use of our words, the attempt to do so is intelligible and so we must be content with "pointing at" a "ding an sich" even though we can never have "true" access to it.
Epistemic justification: internalism and externalism There is no fact of the matter Epistemic justifications *ought* to be external, but we only have access to internal information (even when processing "external" stimuli). Coherentist theories of truth are great and all, but without any demonstrated correspondence to reality, they amount to private games. As for how our knowledge is actually justified, since we cannot get "outside" of ourselves, there can be no fact of the matter.
External world: idealism, skepticism or non-skeptical realism Insufficiently familiar with the issue This is another of those matters where I think I ought to take a course on the subject before deciding what I think. I feel qualified to participate in (or even moderate) a discussion on the subject, but I couldn't really tell you what I think without communicating with a few experts over beers for some hours.
Free will: compatibilism, libertarianism or no free will Accept: no free will I have yet to encounter a definition of "free will" that doesn't at least dabble in loose metaphysics and freewheeling theories of causality.
God: theism and atheism Accept: atheism I am not a theist.
Knowledge: empiricism and rationalism Accept: empiricism The only way to learn about the world is by looking at it.
Knowledge claims: contextualism, relativism or invariantism Lean toward: relativism Knowledge claims are sticky because they rest on so much. At the end of the day, though, we all have a highly contextualized and holistic worldview, and so our claims to "knowledge" (whatever that may mean) can only rest upon the webs of meaning and experience that we've built up over our lifetimes. Gettier problems are cute ways of pointing out where our definitions of the word "knowledge" become problematic; we must, however, make our way in the world without anything like perfect knowledge. This is frustrating. To quote Faust, "And up and down, wherever it goes, I lead my students by the nose, and see that for all our science and art, we can know nothing. It burns my heart."
Laws of nature: Humean and non-Humean Insufficiently familiar with the issue I'm honestly not sure what this question is about. I suspect that I'd probably try to straddle the fence, though. "Laws of nature" are ridiculously sticky, especially in light of quantum physics.
Logic: classical and non-classical Accept: classical Logic follows rules. It's a system we made up, to be sure, but all rules are made-up and classical logic is the best system we've got so far.
Mental content: internalism and externalism The question is too unclear to answer This is one of those things that is too complicated to answer as the question is phrased. The meanings we bring to bear in our answering of the question have such a huge impact that it is both easily decidable when we fix our meanings, but the Devil's in the details.
Meta-ethics: moral realism and moral anti-realism Lean toward: moral anti-realism This is so thorny an issue that it's inherently hard to decide. Yet it seems obvious to me in any case that moral questions lean so heavily on our feelings that we must rely on our guts to decide them. This is problematic, to say the least.
Metaphilosophy: naturalism and non-naturalism Accept: naturalism Naturalism, to my mind, is the only tenable position (though, as a naturalist, I am probably heavily biased). While we may never fully "settle" the matter in debate, we at least have an intelligible and functional definition of what is "natural." The same cannot be said of the non-, super-, or para-natural. When "nature" is defined to mean "all that is; all that exists," I simply cannot understand what is meant to be outside that aside from the imaginary and the unreal. When someone says, "Here there be dragons," my gut instinct is to say that they have abdicated reality.
Mind: physicalism and non-physicalism Accept: physicalism While I accept a generally physicalist theory of mind, it is only in a default way. Everything - every single thing - that we have ever discovered or investigated has turned out to be physical in nature. For a non-physicalist explanation to have a snowball's chance in Hell, someone needs to win a Nobel prize in physics showing how non-physical things can exist, let alone interact with the physical (keeping in mind that photons and electromagnetic fields are still physical).
Moral judgment: cognitivism and non-cognitivism Lean toward: non-cognitivism Our moral judgments are messy and sloppy things. They have overwhelmingly to do with the baggage we bring to the table.
Moral motivation: internalism and externalism There is no fact of the matter I think this varies from individual to individual, and the internalist vs. externalist theories are only "presently" true or false relative to the contingent fact of how the population itself is actually statistically motivated.
Newcomb's problem: one box and two boxes Accept: two boxes No matter what kind of person I am (which I cannot change before meeting the computer - I am whatever kind of person I am), I am better off taking the additional reward because the computer has made its decision before I have made my own. Whatever I decide to do cannot travel back in time and affect the computer's decision one way or the other. It's a simple matter of disjunctive reasoning: whatever is in the opaque box, I am just plain better off with whatever is also in the transparent box; the fact that I don't know what's in the opaque box is immaterial. I used to be a one-boxer, though, because if I got nothing in my opaque box I could then say, "HA! The computer was WRONG!" But "winning" the "fight" has since taken a back seat to getting more money.
Normative ethics: deontology, consequentialism or virtue ethics Lean toward: consequentialism Our moral intuitions derive from all three camps; this much is obvious from surveys on trolley problems. Nevertheless, it seems obvious in any case that we ought to base our decisions on how things come out. But at the same time, we should probably temper our decisions with theories of duty and virtue. It's complicated.
Perceptual experience: disjunctivism, qualia theory, representationalism or sense-datum theory Lean toward: representationalism From the experiment where a monkey was killed while looking at a pattern (and that pattern was found more or less drawn upon its visual cortex), I think the representationalist view of experience is the best explanation we have so far. Natural selection plays into this, too: our experiences will best prepare us to project our genes into the next generation to the extent that they faithfully represent our interactions with reality. While other explanations are possible, representationalism strikes me as the inference to the best explanation, and the most feasible one to boot.
Personal identity: biological view, psychological view or further-fact view There is no fact of the matter "Personal identity" leans so heavily on personal definitions of those words that there really can't be a fact of the matter. Like "pornography," it's one of those things that everyone knows when they see it, but is frustratingly problematic to articulate. Like a coastline, personal identity has interesting features at all levels of detail and changes in interesting ways on all timescales. As things stand, there can be no fact of the matter until our terms are more rigidly defined and those definitions gain acceptance.
Politics: communitarianism, egalitarianism or libertarianism Insufficiently familiar with the issue I generally hate politics. Human beings are not fully rational creatures; our gut feelings inform too much of our lives to make this a decidable question.
Proper names: Fregean and Millian Insufficiently familiar with the issue From Googling the issue, I have concluded that this matter requires an entire course of study. I really don't know how to decide this matter, nor do I really know what this matter is "all about."
Science: scientific realism and scientific anti-realism Lean toward: scientific realism We have done the experiments we've done, and we've gotten the results we've gotten. From there, the matter is highly subject to politics and interpretation; nevertheless, the numbers point where they point. We cannot ever "fully" decide any fact of the matter, yet we must act just the same, and this forces us to interpret data from our hopelessly subjective viewpoints.
Teletransporter (new matter): survival and death Accept: death I'm not entirely convinced that I don't cease to exist and come into a new existence every night when I go to sleep and then wake up the next morning. With a "teletransporter," it seems blatantly obvious that one instantiation of "me" is utterly destroyed, and a new one just like it (complete with all my memories) is built from scratch at the target location. The teletransporter could (in principle) create the new me by scanning the old me without destroying it; it therefore seems obvious that the old me is not "moved" but "destroyed," and I am not "transported" but "reborn."
Time: A-theory and B-theory Accept another alternative I see "time" as a dimension that we are all helplessly and haphazardly falling through. We are insufficiently able to manipulate our position in time to allow us to make such distinctions, though we know from relativity that time is flexible and not as invariant as it seems to our gut instincts. Until or unless we are more able to manipulate our movement through time than we are at present, I see this matter as basically a meaningless quibble. There certainly may be a fact of the matter one way or the other, but I don't think we can determine it right now.
Trolley problem (five straight ahead, one on side track, turn requires switching, what ought one do?): switch and don't switch Accept: switch I'm a consequentialist. It's ugly and counterintuitive at times, but I truly believe that what matters is how things turn out, regardless of how they're set up.
Truth: correspondence, deflationary or epistemic Lean toward: correspondence Any theory of "truth" worth its salt must be checked against an external standard. The trouble in doing that is that we can never get "outside" our own heads. Ideally, we would check our theories of truth against reality, but we can never have a "full" data set, and so we have to settle for doing the experiments we do and getting the results we get (with all the messiness that entails).
Zombies: inconceivable, conceivable but not metaphysically possible or metaphysically possible Accept: metaphysically possible Atoms are more or less zombies. I see no reason that groups of atoms, no matter their configuration, could not be reduced to zombies by some means or another.