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American Journal of Philosophy: Vol. 90, No. 4, December 2012.

Why the Angels Cannot Choose, J. MCKENZIE ALEXANDER

Decision theory faces a number of problematic gambles which challenge it to say what value an ideal rational agent should assign to the gamble, and why. Yet little attention has been devoted to the question of what an ideal rational agent is, and in what sense decision theory may be said to apply to one. This paper shows that, given one arguably natural set of constraints on the preferences of an idealized rational agent, such an agent is forced to be indifferent among entire families of goods, and hence cannot choose among them. This result illustrates the dangers of speaking of the choices of an "ideal rational agent" when one does not make precise the exact nature of the idealizing assumptions. The result may also be viewed as providing an upper bound on the kinds of idealizing assumptions which can be made for rational agents, beyond which the very concept of choice becomes attenuated.

Knowing Yourself--And Giving Up on Your Own Agency in The Process, DEREK BAKER

Are there cases in which agents ought to give up on satisfying an obligation, so that they can avoid a temptation which will lead them to freely commit an even more significant wrong? Actualists say yes. Possibilists say no. Both positions have absurd consequences. This paper argues that common sense morality is committed to an inconsistent triad of principles. This inconsistency becomes acute when we consider the cases that motivate the possibilism--actualism debate. Thus, the absurd consequences of both solutions are unsurprising: any proposed solution will have consequences incompatible with common moral practice. This paper considers and rejects arguments for denying either one of the principles and then suggests that the inconsistent moral commitments originate in an inconsistent picture of human agency. The article goes on to consider revisionary pictures of human agency. Finally, the paper argues that a quasi-Platonic picture of agency, similar to that advocated by Gary Watson is the most promising approach.

Conciliationism and Uniqueness, NATHAN BALLANTYNE and E. J. COFFMAN

Two theses are central to recent work on the epistemology of disagreement. (1) Conciliationism: In a revealed peer disagreement over P, each thinker should give at least some weight to his peer's attitude. (2) Uniqueness: For any given proposition and total body of evidence, the evidence fully justifies exactly one level of confidence in the proposition. Does Conciliationism commit one to Uniqueness? Thomas Kelly has argued that it does. After some scene-setting, the article explains and criticizes Kelly's argument, thereby defeating his larger argument that Conciliationism deserves no dialectical special treatment. The paper argues further, however, that Conciliationists are committed to a disjunction, one of whose disjuncts is Uniqueness, that amounts to an "extremely strong and unobvious position." If this is correct, theorists should not treat Conciliationism as a default position in debates about the epistemic significance of disagreement.

Four-Dimensionalist Theories of Persistence, SARAH MOSS

This paper demonstrates that the theory of persistence defended in by Sider does not accommodate our intuitions about counting sentences. It develops two theories that improve on Sider's: a contextualist theory and an error theory. The paper argues that the latter is stronger, simpler, and better fitted to some important ordinary language judgments than rival four-dimensionalist theories of persistence.

In Defence of Ground, MICHAEL J. RAVEN

This paper defends metaphysical ground against recent, unanswered objections aiming to dismiss it from serious philosophical inquiry. Interest in ground stems from its role in the venerable metaphysical project of identifying which facts hold in virtue of others. Recent work on ground focuses on regimenting it. But many reject ground itself, seeing regimentation as yet another misguided attempt to regiment a bad idea (like phlogiston or astrology). This paper defends ground directly against objections that it is confused, incoherent, or fruitless. This vindicates the very attempt to regiment ground. It also refocuses our attention on the genuine open questions about ground and away from the distracting, unpersuasive reasons for dismissing them.

Are Computational Transitions Sensitive to Semantics? MICHAEL RESCORLA

The formal conception of computation (FCC) holds that computational processes are not sensitive to semantic properties. FCC is popular, but it faces well-known difficulties. Accordingly, authors such as Block and Peacocke pursue a "semantically-laden" alternative, according to which computation can be sensitive to semantics. This paper argues that computation is insensitive to semantics within a wide range of computational systems, including any system with "derived" rather than "original" intentionality. FCC yields the correct verdict for these systems. This paper concludes that there is only one promising strategy for semantically laden theorists: identify special computational systems that help generate their own semantic properties. The article then shows that computation within those systems is semantically-laden. Unfortunately, the few existing discussions that pursue this strategy are problematic.

Mentalism and Epistemic Transparency, DECLAN SMITHIES

Questions about the transparency of evidence are central to debates between factive and nonfactive versions of mentalism about evidence. If all evidence is transparent, then factive mentalism is false, since no factive mental states are transparent. Timothy Williamson, however, has argued that transparency is a myth and that no conditions are transparent except trivial ones. This paper responds by drawing a distinction between doxastic and epistemic notions of transparency. Williamson's argument may show that no conditions are doxastically transparent, but it fails to show that no conditions are epistemically transparent. Moreover, this reinstates the argument from the transparency of evidence against factive mentalism.

Disagreement, Error, and an Alternative to Reference Magnetism, TIMOTHY SUNDELL

Lewisian reference magnetism about linguistic content determination has been defended in recent work by Weatherson and Sider, among others. Two advantages claimed for the view are its capacity to make sense of systematic error in speakers' use of their words, and its capacity to distinguish between verbal and substantive disagreements. Our understanding of both error and disagreement is linked to the role of usage and first order intuitions in semantics and in linguistic theory more generally. This paper argues, partially on the basis of these more general considerations, that reference magnetism delivers implausible results. Specifically, it argues that the proponent of reference magnetism maintains his analysis of genuinely systematic error at the cost of an empirically unjustifiable error theory regarding ordinary usage. In response, this paper describes an alternative view of content determination--Meaning is Use Minus Pragmatics (MUMPS)--which is not committed to such error theories. Despite this advantage, MUMPS has high prima facie costs. On such a view, there is a great deal of variation in linguistic meaning across speakers and times. As a result, a large number of seemingly mistaken claims are analyzed as expressing true propositions. Correspondingly, a large number of seemingly substantive disagreements are analyzed as terminological. This paper, however, argues that these consequences are not as costly as they seem. Despite appearances, MUMPS is consistent with objective, metaphysically realist adjudication of disagreements, even in cases where meanings are not shared and where both parties to a dispute speak truly. MUMPS thus allows for a more nuanced understanding of linguistic usage, change, and variation, without imposing a commitment to any form of metaphysical antirealism.

How to Live Without Identity--And Why, KAI F. WEHMEIER

Identity, we are told, is the binary relation that every object bears to itself, and to itself only. But how can a relation be binary if it never relates two objects? This puzzled Russell and led Wittgenstein to declare that identity is not a relation between objects. The now standard view is that Wittgenstein's position is untenable, and that worries regarding the relational status of identity are the result of confusion. This paper argues that the rejection of identity as a binary relation is perfectly tenable. To this end, it outlines and defends a logical framework that is not committed to an objectual identity relation but is nevertheless expressively equivalent to first-order logic with identity. After it has thus been shown that there is no indispensability argument for objectual identity, this paper argues that there are good reasons for doubting the existence of such a relation, and rebuts a number of attempts at discrediting these reasons.

Definability and the Structure of Logical Paradoxes, HAIXIA ZHONG

Graham Priest argues that all logical paradoxes that include set-theoretic paradoxes and semantic paradoxes share a common structure, the Inclosure Schema, so they should be treated as one family. Through a discussion of Berry's Paradox and the semantic notion "definable," this paper argues that (1) the Inclosure Schema is not fine-grained enough to capture the essential features of semantic paradoxes, and (2) the traditional separation of the two groups of logical paradoxes should be retained.
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Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Periodical review
Date:Mar 1, 2013
Previous Article:American Philosophical Quarterly: Vol. 50, No. 1, January 2013.
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