Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

Boghossian on Epistemic Analyticity

I'm posting the nearly-final draft of my paper on Boghossian on Epistemic Analyticity. Comments welcome. The paper upholds the objection that knowledge of meaning through implicit definition cannot be a source of a priori knowledge, since in order to use implicit definitions, one must already know the propositions knowledge of which we are trying to account for. This claim itself is not new, but I aim to do four new things: firstly, drawing on some recent work by my former colleague Philip Ebert, I put a new structure on the objection, showing how it works on either of two possible readings of one of Boghossian's premises. Secondly, I argue that Boghossian's recent attempts to answer this sort of objection are unsuccessful. Thirdly, I offer some new side-objections to Boghossian. Finally, I resist Ebert's reasons for thinking what's wrong with Boghossian's argument is that it fails to transmit warrant (and also explain how the objection I defend is different).

Update: The link now points to a new draft, changes to which have been based in part on the discussion in the comments on this post.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Merely Verbal Disputes

I'm planning to join the metaphilosophical fray over what counts as a merely verbal dispute. My first thought is that what counts as a merely verbal dispute is likely to depend to a fair extent on what the parties to the dispute are interested in. One obvious way it looks like this can happen is that various prima facie substantive-sounding disputes can turn out to be merely terminological if the parties are self-consciously interested in settling a point of terminology. But this isn't the only way.

For instance, consider disputants A (an externalist) and B (an internalist), who argue as follows:
A: "We both know that there is an external world."
B: "No-one knows that there is an external world."

Suppose A and B agree that they each stand in relation E to the proposition There exists an external world, where E is the relation that A, being an externalist, takes to be sufficient for knowledge. And they also agree that nobody stands in relation I to that proposition, where I is the relation that B, being an internalist, takes to be necessary for knowledge.
Now suppose that when they realize they agree in these ways, they find that this enables them to resolve all the points they were interested in. Then we might be tempted to say that their original dispute was merely a verbal dispute about 'knows'. But in fact things aren't quite that simple - we want to allow that two people could resolve a substantive dispute about knowledge by thinking about the E and I facts, even where the original dispute was a substantive dispute about the knowledge facts (as opposed to the E and I facts) and not merely a verbal dispute about 'knows'. For instance, it could be that thinking about the E and I facts helps one of them to notice the facts about the knowledge relevant for resolving their dispute. Instead, I think that being resolvable in this way is a symptom of a merely verbal dispute. It is a symptom because it (fallibly) indicates that they never really diagreed about anything they were interested in, which I think is crucial for whether their dispute was merely verbal. (That's not supposed to be a criterion by itself either, but it's closer.)

But if noticing these points of agreement does not resolve their dispute (and the same goes for any other agreements of a similar kind that they may have), then it's tempting to say their dispute is not merely verbal but concerns a substantive point about knowledge. And that's going to be because this is evidence that what they're interested in is the facts about knowledge, and not just the E and I facts (or whatever).

In fact, however, there's something appealing about the thought that their dispute might still be merely verbal even if they are interested in knowledge for its own sake. For if there are no knowledge facts as distinct from the facts about E and I, then there is nothing substantive for their dispute to be about. So their dispute - if it is to have any point at all - must boil down to a disgreement about whether 'knowledge' tracks (and/or should track) E or I. If this is right, the interests of the disputants don't always settle whether the dispute is merely verbal. Still, they surely have an impact in many cases.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pritchard's Basic Knowledge Workshop Paper

A draft of Duncan's paper for the Arche Basic Knowledge Workshop, 'Knowledge and Value', is now available. I'm looking forward to getting a chance to read it this weekend ...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Priori Paper

I'm posting a draft of my new paper on the a priori. Comments very welcome, as always.

Monday, October 09, 2006

(Actually p) iff p

Here's an interesting schema from the point of view of thinking about the relationship between conceptual truth and necessary truth:

A: (Acutally p) iff p

For true but contingent propositions p, this is possibly false: worlds where not-p are still worlds where actually p. Do people reckon it's conceivable that A is false for such p?

Even if it *is* conceivably false, you might think it's the sort of thing you can tell is true just by thinking about the concepts it involves. This might lead you to suspect there are two grades of conceptual truth:

1. Things you can tell are true just by thinking about the concepts involved,
2. Things such that it is not conceivable that they are false.

The second grade looks strictly stronger. (Although I'd be interested to hear if people think they have counterexamples to this claim.)

(Thanks to Daniel for making me think about this!)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

More Fame

Since my last post I have been interviewed on ABC Radio! (Although before anyone gets too excited, I should mention that it was ABC Radio Hobart). I'm about to be interviewed again by RTR fm in Perth. It seems the Aussies are interested in flirting.

What I want to know is why nobody takes this kind of interest in my *fascintating* papers on the a priori. :)