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The Space of Reasons

The Space of Reasons
Blog Devoted to Epistemology and Philosophy of Mind
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McDowell's Kant (Part V)
2008-02-11 03:52:00
We are only one post away from my summary of McDowell's own position (I'm sure the suspense has been just eating away at you by now!) But first, I want to consider two more alternative positions (for reasons that should become clear by the end of the post).The first alternative response to (Q1) and (Q2), which I will henceforth refer to as {STRATEGY1}, would be to argue that unconceptualised intuition merely plays a causal, rather than normative, role in determining how the sensory manifold is synthesised. The difference between the causal and normative can be made vivid by contrasting the case in which A triggers B with the case in which A indicates B. On the present view, the intuition does not suggest or indicate which rule the imagination ought apply. Rather, it merely triggers the application of a certain rule. Take for example the case in which one’s vision is affected by a red cube. On the present account, the red cube causes one’s imagination to apply the red-rul...
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The 62nd Philosopher's Carnival
2008-02-07 13:13:00
is here.
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McDowell's Kant (Part IV)
2008-02-04 15:40:00
In my previous post I adumbrated the three-tiered approach to (Q1):(Q1): How are we to reconcile the Kantian claim that experience involves making judgements with the Lockean conception of experience as the means by which objects are given to us?If we adopt the three-tiered account, the problem raised by (Q1) begins to take a slightly different form. Commentators such as Strawson and Sellars have suggested that by Kant’s lights, we come to see some object α as φ by forming an image of α in accordance with the rule or concept φ. On this view, when one comes to see something as red, one is forming an image of that thing in accordance with the rule or concept red. However, the question quickly arises as to what determines which rule the imagination applies in its synthesis of the sensory manifold and what role (if any) does the manifold itself play in its own synthesis? In the case of the “pure concepts of the understanding”, or the categories, the answer ...
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McDowell's Kant (Part III)
2008-01-28 14:03:00
The Space of Reasons is Back! First off, a special word of thanks to all the commenters who kept The Space of Reasons active while I was away. They’re a number of great insights in your responses, many of which foreshadow much of what I was planning to say. To recap, we began looking at the following question: (Q1): How are we to reconcile the Kantian claim that experience involves making judgements with the Lockean conception of experience as the means by which objects are given to us? As promised, I will like to sketch a response to (Q1) based on some thoughts gleaned from the work of Béatrice Longuenesse who limns what may be described as a three-tier approach (for reasons that will eventually become clear). On Longuenesse’s reading of Kant, the understanding is active not only in W-experience, but in N-experience as well (though she of course does not put the matter in exactly those terms). However, she distinguishes between two “aspects” of the activity of th...
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Happy Holidays!
2007-12-24 14:13:00
I'm off to Scotland for the Holiday season, so the Space of Reasons will be going into brief hiatus. However, I'll be back early in the new year. Our first item of business will be to finish the series on McDowell's Kant. See you then!
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McDowell's Kant (Part II)
2007-12-17 02:46:00
In my previous post, I concluded that the question that motivates McDowell’s Kant may be put as follows: (Q1): How are we to reconcile the Kantian claim that experience involves making judgements with the Lockean conception of experience as the means by which objects are given to us? One straightforward response to (Q1) is to distinguish between two meanings of the word “experience” as used by Kant in the Critique. The first, which I will refer to as narrow experience (or N-experience), refers to raw “sensory impressions”. N-experience corresponds with the Lockean conception of experience. The second, which I will refer to as wide experience (or W-experience), refers to “empirical knowledge”.On the present proposal, when Kant talks about experience involving the understanding, it is W-experience that he has in mind. Thus, on this picture, the categories only apply to experience understood in terms of empirical knowledge or W-experience. However, N-experience, which cor...
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McDowell's Kant (Part I)
2007-12-10 13:55:00
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged on McDowell. So for the next few posts I will be returning to this blog’s original inspiration with a series on McDowell’s Kant. In the next few posts I will be attempting to re-express the dialectic McDowell sets up in the introduction to Mind and World in Kantian terms, thereby displaying the deeply Kantian nature of McDowell’s project. I begin with Kant’s claim that “experience itself is a kind of cognition requiring the understanding” (Bxvii). Thus, we arrive at the first Kantian principle I wish to exploit in my discussion of McDowell’s Kant: (K1): experience requires understandingHow are we to interpret the word “understanding” as used by Kant? Perhaps the closest thing to a definition can be found in A69/B94, where Kant writes: “We can reduce all acts of the understanding to judgements, so that the understanding in general can be represented as a capacity for judging.” Thus, we arr...
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The 58th Philosopher's Carnival
2007-12-03 14:57:00
is here!
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The 2007 Dewey Lectures
2007-12-02 05:02:00
...begin tomorrow! This year, Columbia University's Dewey Lectures will be delivered by Tyler Burge. Although I have only recently began examining Burge, I am already a big fan of the clarity and precision of his writing. As for his ideas, let's just say that he is one of the main philosophers I hope to spend lots of time thinking about over the course of my future philosophical career. In short, I am quite excited that he will be delivering the Dewey lectures this year.The overall title of the talks is "Self and Self Understanding", and the schedule is as follows:Lecture One: "Some Origins of Self"December 3rd 2007, 6:15-8:00 PM, Davis Auditorium (Shaipro), Reception to FollowLecture Two: "Self and Constitutive Norms"December 4th 2007, 6:15-8:00 PM, Davis Auditorium (Shapiro) Lecture Three: "Self-Understanding"December 5th 2007, 6:15-8:00 PM, Heyman Center Common Room
Aporia Undergraduate Philosophy Conference
2007-11-29 14:00:00
Aporia, Dartmouth College's Philosophy Journal, is organizing a conference for promising undergraduate philosophers. The core part of the Dartmouth Undergraduate Philosophy Conference will take place on Saturday April 5th with welcoming and closing events on Friday the 4th and Sunday the 6th.The Aporia Editorial Board is now accepting submissions for presentation and question and answer sessions on Saturday. Top papers will be awarded prizes and be published in the spring issue of Aporia. They are also encouraging volunteers to provide comments on selected papers. The Dartmouth community will aid students with travel arrangements and housing when possible.The paper submission deadline is January 1st. Students may register any time before the conference for $30. Those who register before January 1st will get $10 off the registration fee. Additionally, if five or more students from one institution register, they will all get $10 off the registration fee.All those wishing to attend ...
Woodbridge Lecture-Links
2007-11-26 06:17:00
You can find links to the full text of Robert Brandom's Woodbridge lectures here.Also, be sure to check out Selbst's response to the lectures.
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Woodbridge Lectures 2007
2007-11-12 14:20:00
The Columbia University Woodbriddge Lectures , featuring Robert Brandom, begin today! The title of the four day series is "Animating Ideas of Idealism". The program is as follows:Lecture One: “Norms, Selves, and Concepts" November 12, 6:15-8:00pm, 301 Philosophy Hall Reception to follow Lecture Two: “Autonomy, Community, and Freedom” November 13, 6:15-8:00pm Heyman Center Common Room Lecture Three: “History, Reason, and Reality" November 14, 2007 6:15-8:00pm Heyman Center Common Room DISCUSSION SECTION November 15, 2007 4:10pm–6pm 716 Philosophy Hall
Shopping for Apples and Appendixes
2007-11-05 02:35:00
This is the final installment of my ongoing series of posts on Reid's shop argument. In my previous post, I noted that the sceptic’s attempt to refute step (1) of the Shop Argument fails. However, the sceptic can also attempt to undermine the Shop Argument by refuting step (2); that is, the sceptic may argue that the fact that two faculties come from the same shop does not imply that they are equally trustworthy. In fact, it is quite easy to construct a counterexample to step (2) of the Shop Argument. For instance, the Apple computer company manufactures both ipods and desktop computers. Now I am a big fan of the Apple ipod and would gladly class it among the ten greatest 21st century inventions. However, I also believe that the Apple desktop operating system remains the most non-user friendly invention to curse the planet and that their production should be immediately discontinued. (Okay, so I don't really believe this, but let us just suppose that this is true for the s...
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The 55th Philosopher's Carnival
2007-10-29 01:55:00
is here.
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Shopping for an Efficient Cause (Part 2)
2007-10-22 04:03:00
In my previous post, Shopping for an Efficient Cause (Part 1), I presented an argument against Reid's "same shop" argument. In this post, I will say why I think the previous argument fails and point towards a more effective strategy for combating the Shop Argument. As we noted earlier, Reid accepts the first three premises aforementioned argument. Moreover, premise 4 follows from premises 2 and 3. However, premise 5 does not follow from premises 1 and 4. Premise 5 confuses the claim of premise 4, that sensory receptions and rational judgements have different efficient causes (a thesis Reid would accept), with the thesis that the sensory faculty and the rational faculty have different efficient causes (a thesis Reid would reject). Although we are the efficient cause of our rational judgements, we are not (by Reid’s lights) the efficient cause of our rational faculty. What is at issue in the Shop Argument is not the acts of judging or sensing but rather the faculties involved....
Shopping for an Efficient Cause (Part 1)
2007-10-16 00:18:00
I am continuing my series of posts on Thomas Reid. Let us recap Reid’s Shop Argument: Reason, says the sceptic, is the only judge of truth, and you ought to throw off every opinion and every belief that is not grounded on reason. Why, sir, should I believe the faculty of reason more than that of perception?—they came both out of the same shop, and were made by the same artist; and if he puts one piece of false ware into my hands, what should hinder him from putting another?This argument can be broken down into three steps: 1. Reason and the senses both come from the same shop. (premise)2. That two things come from the same shop implies they are equally reliable. (premise)3. Reason and the sense are equally reliable. (From 1 and 2) Given that reason and the senses are equally reliable, the sceptic who privileges reason above the senses is guilty of an unwarranted epistemological prejudice. One way in which the sceptic can resist the Shop Argument would be to r...
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The 54th Philosopher's Carnival
2007-10-09 01:06:00
is here.
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Shopping for the Sui Generis
2007-10-01 13:09:00
In this post I will be further developing the reply to Reid adumbrated in my previous post; what I will refer to as the sui generis thesis. This thesis is not in tension with Reid’s observation that all the cognitive faculties are equally susceptible to “disorders of the body”. To wit, I am not claiming that reason is somehow less fallible than the faculty of sense. For example, we can imagine someone in the exact opposite position to Nash; someone whose schizophrenia utterly undermined the reliability of their rational faculty while leaving their sensory faculty perfectly intact. I do not wish to deny such a possibility.My point is that if someone’s reason were so corrupted, there would be no way for them to use their sensory faculty to discover this fact. By contrast, in the case of someone whose sensory faculty is compromised by schizophrenia, it is nevertheless conceivable that they could discover this fact using their rational faculty (in fact, this is precisely wh...
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Reid's "Same Shop" Argument (Part 2)
2007-09-24 19:48:00
The central contention of the Shop Argument is that our trust in our sensory faculty (along with the other cognitive faculties) is a first principle just like our trust in reason. The reliability of both faculties is derived from the same place—i.e., how we have been designed by Nature—and neither is therefore better than the other. In a slogan, all first principles are created equal.However, pace what Reid has to say on the matter it seems to me that there is in fact something special about the rational faculty that sets it in sharp contradistinction to the sensory faculty. Specifically, there appears to be a unilateral relationship between the two faculties such that our rational deliberations can be employed to evaluate the reliability of our sensory deliverances, but our sensory deliverances cannot be used to evaluate our rational deliberations.This claim is illustrated by the Ron Howard film, A Beautiful Mind, which is loosely based on the life of the mathematician and winn...
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The 53rd Philosopher's Carnival
2007-09-17 05:31:00
is here.
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Reid's "Same Shop" Argument (Part 1)
2007-09-15 14:48:00
External-world scepticism is the thesis that we cannot know that the external world exists or that it is as we perceive it to be. The canonical summary of Reid’s reply to external-world scepticism is that found in chapter 6 of the Inquiry: The sceptic asks me, Why do you believe in the existence of the external object which you perceive? This belief, sir, is none of my manufacture; it came from the mint of Nature; it bears her image and superscription; and, if it is not right, the fault is not mine: I even took it upon trust, and without suspicion. Reason, says the sceptic, is the only judge of truth, and you ought to throw off every opinion and every belief that is not grounded on reason. Why, sir, should I believe the faculty of reason more than that of perception?—they came both out of the same shop, and were made by the same artist; and if he puts one piece of false ware into my hands, what should hinder him from putting another?[Inquiry, VI, 20: 168-9]Reid notes th...
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The Nagel Lectures
2007-09-13 04:57:00
Columbia University's Philosophy department will be hosting its annual Nagel Lectures on Thursday, September 27th. The first lecture, which will be delivered by Anita Feferman, is entitled "Uncovering Tarski", and begins at 4:00pm in room 716, Philosophy Hall. The second lecture, entitled "Gödel, Nagel, Minds and Machines", begins at 6:15pm in the same venue and will be delivered by Solomon Feferman (winner of the Rolf Schock prize in logic and philosophy). There will be a short reception between the two sessions.
An Argument for Atheism (Martin)
2007-09-10 22:48:00
The following is the second installment of a two-part cross-post written by Martin Cooke from Enigmania:I shall, in this post, take atheism to be the belief that there is (probably) no God, where God will be defined to be an omniscient and omnipotent being that is also totally good (much as Richard defines Him), and I shall argue (as I did briefly in a comment on this post of Richard's) that such a God is (probably) impossible. There are of course other definitions, e.g. atheism is sometimes regarded as the absence of a belief in God, so that it would include both atheism (as defined above) and agnosticism (the absence of a belief either way, which includes the belief that knowledge either way is impossible, which is another definition of agnosticism), and God is sometimes defined to be the Creator of this Universe.Such a Creator would know (more or less) all that could be known about this Universe, just as an author would know all about her story, or a painter all about his paint...
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New Philosophy of Mind Blogs
2007-09-07 06:18:00
I am pleased to announce that both Tim Crane and Colin McGinn have joined the philosophy blogging world. Go have a peek!
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An Argument for Agnosticism (Martin)
2007-09-03 13:50:00
The following is a cross-post written by Martin Cooke from Enigmania:Either the world was deliberately created, so that some sort of theism is true, or else atheism is true, but both options involve us in such mysteries (as the two below) that to choose either, given only such evidence as is publicly available (and so worthy of being called ‘evidence’), would be to favour irrationally one mystery over another, whence agnosticism (i.e. the absence of a belief either way) is to be preferred.The obvious problem with theism is that, when we look at the world we see only mundane things, no gods and not even angels or fairies. We don’t even see any clear evidence that the world was deliberately created, or is being guided from above, or even watched over. But more importantly our language is so orientated towards the world that we are unable even to form a clear idea of what its creator might be like.Conversely we know a lot about the world. We even know that our brains are composed...
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The 52nd Philosopher's Carnival
2007-08-27 23:47:00
is here.
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Goodbye Scotland...Hello New York!
2007-08-23 21:48:00
I’ve finally submitted my M.Phil dissertation (‘viva’ pending), which brings my research career at the University of St Andrews to a close. I begin my Ph.D at Columbia in less than two weeks. This entry represents my very first post from the American continent. The geographical transition will also mark a transition in the content of this weblog. From now on, The Space of Reasons will be a full-fledged LEMMing, taking in a wider range of philosophical topics and issues. (The most recent posts on Naturalised Epistemology represented my initial steps in this direction.) However, McDowell’s theory of knowledge will continue to figure prominently here. And while we’re on the topic of McDowell, I am pleased to announce the appearance of a brand new McDowell blog, spontaneity&receptivity. This new philosophy weblog (or ‘philog’) focuses on McDowell’s philosophy of language and mind, particularly as set forth in his book Mind and World. (This fills in the gaps lef...
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Naturalising Epistemology: Quine vs. Crumley (Part 2)
2007-08-20 05:45:00
In my previous post I outlined two objections presented by Jack Crumley to Quinean naturalised epistemology. While I’m not altogether unsympathetic to Crumley’s process, I believe that as they stand, Crumley’s objections require further defence.Crumley claims that nature may favour belief-forming mechanism that form false beliefs. However, Crumley seems to be overstating the case. (Here, Quine’s frequent admonition seems quite apt: let's not overreact.) The survival value of being overly cautious is limited to certain special situations and circumstances. However, a general paranoia is as equally destructive as the alternative. For example, the individual that runs every time the bush rustles because she assumes it is a lion will prove less adaptively fit than the one who learns to tell the difference between the bush rustle caused by a lion (potential predator) and a rabbit (potential prey). While being overly cautious may prove evolutionary valuable in specific cir...
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The 51st Philosopher's Carnival
2007-08-06 18:59:00
is here.
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Naturalising Epistemology: Quine vs. Crumley
2007-07-30 16:13:00
Thus far we have established that naturalised epistemology is no longer concerned with providing some justification for science that is prior to science. However, defenders of traditional epistemology point out that this still leaves room for sceptical worries that find their starting place within science. Science, remember, informs us that our theoretical conception of the world is underdetermined by our sensory evidence. Thus, even if we give up first philosophy, Quine still needs to account for the gap between "meagre" input and "torrential" output. Of course Quine can easily account for such a gap in causal terms. That is, science can, at least in principle, provide a complete causal account describing how sensory stimulation is eventually translated into theoretical posits. However, it is not the causal gap between evidence and theory that bothers defenders of traditional epistemology, but rather the inferential gap. In other words, the problem of the underdetermination ...
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