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David Faraci
Blacksburg, VA
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That's really helpful. So, is the story something like this? Sentiments aim at accurate representation of their objects just as beliefs aim at truth. There can be epistemic reasons to believe regardless of what practical reasons there are to believe or even to not believe—(roughly) reasons having to do with the truth of the thing believed. So, too, can there be fittingness reasons to feel regardless of what practical reasons there are to feel or even to not feel—(roughly) reasons having to do with the accuracy of representing the object as the sentiment does. If that's right, I think I see and understand the view. I still want to resist it, but that's because I don't think epistemic reasons are normative reasons, either, except in the case where we have reasons to think about what's true. Similarly, I wouldn't think fittingness reasons would be normative except in cases where we have reasons to represent via the sentiments. In the snake case I describe, I don't think this condition is met.
Justin (and Dan), It is rather the claim that there are reasons supporting fear, and indeed they constitute an adequate justification of a certain sort, even if you would be better off without fear. Do you find the same story plausible about language? Suppose that, for some reason, I'm set up such that when I think the word "snake," I freeze up. I come upon a snake and, recognizing it, could just turn and run. But then I think "SNAKE!!!" Do you want to say that the combination of psychology (we just tend to think words of things we see, without intending to) and representational accuracy (if it was a mouse, I'd have made a mistake) similarly provides me with a kind of justification? If yes (the cases seem the same to me, certainly), that just drives home for me the absence of normativity. I don't think I had any reason to think "snake" in that case. I just think there's a sense in which the naturalness and accuracy of my doing so inclines us away from characterizing me as making a mistake, and there's a temptation to express that in terms of a kind of justification. Nevertheless, where genuine normative reasons are concerned, I had none: Nothing that actually matters spoke in favor of my feeling fear or thinking "snake."
Dan & Justin, I'm just here to make my usual trouble, and if you'd prefer to focus on this newer stuff, please don't feel obligated to get into this. But I thought it might be worth rehashing some things I suspect you, Dan, have heard (probably from Christian) in case there are new things to say, or others want to weigh in. I take it you think the fitting and meriting relations are normative, in that they provide normative reasons: We have reason to fear the dangerous, be amused by the humerous, etc. I'm skeptical of this. I like the general picture of sentiments as representative, and I think they play an important role for us, I just don't think their fittingess provides us with reasons to feel them. Here are three quick points in favor of my view: Potential Redundancy Suppose I'm in the woods and come upon a poisonous snake. I am capable of fully representing the snake's danger to me, and being suitably motivated, without feeling fear. I can't imagine why, in that case, I would still have reason to feel fear. This is because if I did have a reason to fear, it would stem from my needing to fear the snake in order to respond appropriately to it. But ex hypothesi, I don't. (This might seem similar to Shadow Skepticism, but I take it that it's different given that we might well be able to represent even attitude-dependent values without deploying our sentiments.) Lack of Motivation from the Analogy with Language The above problem isn't surprising when you think of the sentiments as representative in something like the way words are. The word "dog" is fitting for my dog Silke. This does not provide me with any reason to think or say "dog" when I see her, unless that would help me achieve some goal. More generally, there is simply no reason to go around representing things. It's More Plausible that Unfittingness Is Normative While I don't have any reason to think or say "dog" when I see Silke, you might argue that I do have reason not to think or say "cat"—i.e., not to misrepresent. I'm not sure that's true, but it certainly sounds more plausible than the idea that I have reason to go around representing things. Of course, you could claim that both fittingness and unfittingness are normative. But assuming each sentiment is either fitting or unfitting for each object—either the sentiment accurately represents the object or it doesn't—this amounts to ruling out error theory by fiat. For instance, every time I see an animal (say) I either have reason to fear it or reason to not fear it. The possibility that I have no reasons at all has vanished. I don't think we should be comfortable with that result.
David S., Sorry, I think I must have lost the thread somewhere. I thought we were still just talking about seeking the best restaurant as an analogy for seeking the Thing To Do. Of course I agree that Subjectivism doesn't have to actually tell us what the best restaurant is. But now I fear I'm still missing your point. Darn you for creating such an interesting thread with so many issues to tackle.
Toggle Commented Feb 10, 2014 on Favorite objections to subjectivism at PEA Soup
Jamie, I tend to agree that we should be worried about explaining why some facts end deliberation (i.e., I take it, why they are reasons) while others don't. I'm not sure everyone else thinks we need to do this. I think non-naturalists can't, for instance, and as I read him Enoch isn't much bothered by that. That's one of the main reasons I'm not a non-naturalist! As for Humeans, I was thinking that given that I rejected a Humean theory of reasons, if I accepted a Humean theory of motivation I'd be more worried about my answers to those questions, because I'd think (I take it) that even if a general tendency to be rational could explain why I believe as I judge I ought, it couldn't explain why I act as I judge I ought, since I would still need to reference a desire somewhere.
Toggle Commented Feb 10, 2014 on Favorite objections to subjectivism at PEA Soup
Jamie, I take it there are three questions here: (1) why it is appropriate that deliberation ends when I draw a conclusion about what I have most reason to do; (2) why I actually end my deliberation there much of the time; (3) why I deliberate by looking for reasons in the first place (rather than, say, just doing whatever they feel like in the moment). I'll confess this isn't stuff I've thought about all that much, and I think even my inchoate views are rather idiosyncratic, but FWIW: (1) I think I've always assumed I would get the appropriate end of deliberation for free just because reasons are (by definition?) facts about the proper ends of deliberation. If I'm deliberating about what to do and I conclude that this is what I have most reason to do, that's the same as concluding that it's the thing to do, which is the same as concluding that it's the proper end of my deliberation. Surely I'm irrational if I don't then (intend to) do it. I think I want to use something like Wedgwood's stuff to fill in the details. (2) Given what I think about (1), the question of why I actually end my deliberation is just the question of why I'd be rational most of the time. But I don't see this as any more puzzling than why, typically, if I conclude that I have most reason to believe P, I actually believe P. I'm guessing other people worry about this because they accept something like the Humean theory of motivation. But that stuff has never struck me as particularly plausible. (3) I don't know what psychologically explains why I deliberate. Anecdotally, I deliberate because I can't shake the sense that some actions are preferable to others, so I try to figure out what those are. Sometimes I consult my desires. Sometimes not. Do Subjectivists really have something better to say about this one? (Other than another appeal to Hume.)
Toggle Commented Feb 10, 2014 on Favorite objections to subjectivism at PEA Soup
David S., So that just sounds to me like you're interested in guidance only in the weaker sense that Mind-Reading Google Maps would provide, not the sense Zagat purports to. I take it this means we have a disagreement about the success conditions for a normative theory. Here I think the discussion dovetails with my exchange with Eric. It seems to me that as long as there's the possibility of Zagat-style guidance, I should keep looking for that rather than just going to Mind-Reading Google Maps. Of course, that's only an analogy. And I might agree with you, as you said above, that if we were really talking about restaurants, I'd be more interested in the project of finding the one that's best for me, rather than the one that's objectively best. But I don't feel the force of that at all when it comes to the normative. As I said to Eric, as long as there's the possibility that there might be objective facts about the Thing To Do, it would seem like a mistake to focus on what I should do given the values I happen to have.
Toggle Commented Feb 9, 2014 on Favorite objections to subjectivism at PEA Soup
Jamie, We might well wonder why I should bother looking for facts about the objectively best restaurant. But I think that's just a place where the analogy between the search for the objectively best restaurant and the search for Guidance breaks down. That's because I think the search for reasons just is the search for Guidance. Do I need a reason to search for reasons?
Toggle Commented Feb 9, 2014 on Favorite objections to subjectivism at PEA Soup
Daniel, If someone is looking for the "objectively best restaurant," they're looking for the restaurant that there is most reason to go to. I wasn't thinking about it this way. I was imagining the best restaurant as being determined by some objective criteria of aesthetic quality. It might turn out that very few people have most reason to go there. I certainly agree with you, though, that when I am trying to decide what restaurant I have most reason to go to, facts about me are quite relevant.
Toggle Commented Feb 9, 2014 on Favorite objections to subjectivism at PEA Soup
Eric, Thanks for that; it's really helpful. The first thing I'll say, which I'm sure won't surprise you, is that the first paragraph just looks to me like an argument for error theory. If my normative judgements are all just representatives of my perspective (and necessarily are so), then that sounds to me like excellent evidence that they're all false (barring some incredible coincidence, or maybe some sort of Enoch-style pre-established harmony with Guidance). Of course, you're going to go on and offer a normative argument for why it's good to think of reasons in this way, which I take it is supposed to undercut the idea that this is an error theory, and instead put it forth as a genuine theory of what reasons are. I'm not clear on whether I'll be able to accept that story, given my other committments. I'll have to check out your paper! Anyway, I think you're right that this comes down to something like the disagreement you allude to between people who think only God can grant meaning or that only atheism can. (I'm personally fascinated by the similar disagreement between people who think that only immortality can allow for meaning vs those who think mortality can. I also wonder whether there are any statistically significant correlations between these views about meaning and normativity.) The question is whether this difference comes down to a matter of taste or temperment, or whether there's something neutral to say on one side or the other. Maybe it's the former. But in my more optimistic moments I think there's still something to be said for Objectivism. I imagine that I've been convinced that Subjectivism is true. Then someone comes along and shows me, beyond all doubt, that X is the Thing To Do, even though I have no route to X-ing through my S, or whatever. I would sure as hell X. Or, at least, if I didn't, I think that would make me pretty darn irrational. If that's right, then surely I should go in for Subjectivism only if I'm totally certain there are no objective reasons. Unfortuantely, when I tell Subjectivists this little story, they often reply that they simply wouldn't care about the Thing To Do. I suspect this has to do with your use of the term "stifling." I think sometimes Subjectivists imagine objective reasons as tyrannical in some way. I just don't see that. They're guides, and I'd be very happy to find them, because otherwise it really just doesn't matter what I do.
Toggle Commented Feb 9, 2014 on Favorite objections to subjectivism at PEA Soup
(Tried to post this earlier, but TypePad is apparently a Subjectivist and wouldn't let me.) David, Fair enough. But surely it doesn't follow that if someone is looking for the objectively best restaurant, you should just tell him how to get to the one he'd most enjoy. That would seem rather disrespectful to his project.
Toggle Commented Feb 8, 2014 on Favorite objections to subjectivism at PEA Soup
Jamie, The "I want" there was supposed to be a project-determining claim. My project is to find restaureasons, which are facts about what restaurants are objectively best. There might be a good meta-level argument that this is a silly project. Maybe that's because there are no restaureasons, or because restaureasons aren't the right thing to care about. Maybe the right alternative is just to look for the restaurant I'd enjoy most given all the facts about me. The point is just that whatever else is true here, it seems true that finding out what restaurants I'd enjoy isn't the same as finding out what restaureasons there are.
Toggle Commented Feb 8, 2014 on Favorite objections to subjectivism at PEA Soup
Yes, the analogy isn't perfect. Perhaps we need a Google Maps that can read your mind to gather any information that's pertinent to determining your destination. Even then, Google Maps still won't be guiding you the way Zagat purports to. (Unless, of course, some of the information in your head concerns the objectively best restaurant, but we can set that aside for obvious reasons.) Of course, you might think that there is no fact of the matter about what the objectively best restaurant is; there's just a fact about which restaurant you'd go to given all the facts about you. That might very well be true. But suppose I came to you and asked you what site I should use to find the objectively best restaurant. It seems to me that if there is no such thing, you should tell me that no site will give me the answer I seek. You might then suggest I use Mind-Reading Google Maps to find the ideal restaurant for me, as a sort of second-best option. What you shouldn't do, I think, is just tell me right off that the answer I seek can be found at Mind-Reading Google Maps.
Toggle Commented Feb 8, 2014 on Favorite objections to subjectivism at PEA Soup
Oops, didn't see Nick's comment. I think it popped up while I was composing my last one. I think Subjectivism provides us with practical guidance only in a limited sense. Suppose I am looking for restaurant guidance. I want to know where the best restaurant is. Zagat (purportedly) provides such guidance. It tells me what the best restaurants are and directs me to them. Does Google Maps provide restaurant guidance? Well, in one sense it does. If I know what the best restaurant is, it will tell me how to get there. If I know the best restaurant is in a particular town, it will show me where all the restaurants are in that town. And so on. But there's a clear way in which Google Maps provides no restaurant guidance whatsoever, in that it has nothing to say about which restaurants are the best restaurants. Subjectivism seems to me like Google Maps. If I already know what I'm aiming at, it tells me how to get there. If I know roughly what I'm aiming at, it gives me some ideas about how to narrow my search. But it can't tell me what to aim at, at least not without just extrapolating from other things I'm aiming at.
Toggle Commented Feb 8, 2014 on Favorite objections to subjectivism at PEA Soup
David, Certainly, I know not everyone feels what I'm feeling. I wasn't trying to convince so much as just explain why I (and perhaps others) are sometimes tempted to say we see no reason to embrace Subjectivism. You may not want to get into this here, but I do wonder what you do feel. Do you simply not feel the force of the search for Guidance? Is there something else you were searching for that led you to Subjectivism? Or do you think Subjectivism provides Guidance after all? It worries me that, as Subjectivists and Objectivists, we seem to be so mutually baffled by our attitudes to each other's views. It suggests to me that something has gone seriously wrong.
Toggle Commented Feb 8, 2014 on Favorite objections to subjectivism at PEA Soup
Eric, Jamie and David S., Sorry this is long. Hopefully it'll be helpful. Let's suppose that Schroeder's arguments at least show that Subjectivist explanations of Ronnie and Lonnie's reasons are much more powerful than Objectivists'. Indeed, let's suppose, David, that no Objectivist explanation could, even in principle, have all of the advantages you've mentioned to the same extent as the best Subjectivist one. Even granting all that, I'd be unlikely to embrace Subjectivism. I'll try to explain why with an analogy. I think of my deepest deliberative questions as similar to questions about the meaning of life. Sometimes people say that, in life, we create our own meaning. I can't stand that answer. Telling me that I create my own meaning seems to me no better than telling me that there's no meaning at all. Of course, it could turn out that this view has all sorts of other theoretical advantages in terms of understanding how people use the term 'meaning', in terms of broader naturalistic credentials, in terms of how a theory of meaning impacts other questions in philosophy, etc. But in my mind none of that matters very much, because I see it as a constraint on a theory of meaning that it give me an (non-error-theoretic) answer to a deeper question I have. I don't think the "we create our own meaning" view meets that constraint. I feel much the same way about Subjectivism, with respect to the question of whether (in, again, admittedly frustratingly floofy terms) reality provides any Guidance for us. In light of that, let me adjust my claim about there being no good reasons to accept Subjectivism. It's not that there's nothing to say in favor of Subjectivism on some understandings of what Subjectivism is trying to accomplish theoretically. For instance, Subjectivism might well be the view that best captures certain kinds of folk reasons-talk. What I don't see are any good reasons to accept Subjectivism as a view about reasons, where reasons provide Guidance. (I'm not saying they couldn't be forthcoming. I just haven't seen and can't think of any that would be compelling enough even initially to move me in this direction. The closest is probably Schroeder's stuff.) I take it that for their part, Subjectivists can either claim that subjective reasons do provide Guidance or they can deny that it needs to. I've just said I haven't seen any successfully take the former tack. And, in any case, my impression—one I'm happy to be disabused of—is that most Subjectivists take the latter anyway. Some might do this because they simply don't think Guidance is what's at issue. Maybe they're just looking for a good account of how reasons-talk works, or something like that. Those people aren't engaged in the same project as I am. I'm not sure what to say about how we should resolve to talk to one another, given that there's obviously overlap between our projects. I think that's a hard question, and an important one, and not one I can address here. I suspect though—perhaps wrongly—that some Subjectivists do or at least did care about Guidance. Unfortunately, they concluded that there was none. Indeed, I think lots of people think it's just obvious that there's no Guidance, obvious that there couldn't be these mysterious objective reasons. But unlike me, they don't see the ability to provide Guidance as a constraint. Rather, that ability is just one more thing that goes into the hopper when we ask what theory comes out on top. If no theory has that ability, it just stops being a relevant criterion, and maybe Subjectivism wins along other paths. I'm not happy with this view. For one thing, I think it's a large part of what leads people to talk past each other. But I won't say much about this metaphilosophical issue here (though I'm happy to talk about it if someone wants to). Rather, I'll just say that I'm not entirely convinced there's no hope for objective reasons and that, if I were, I'd just be an error theorist with respect to reasons that provide Guidance. Maybe then I'd go on to embrace Subjectivism as a post-error-theoretic view, as people sometimes do with Fictionalism. Probably not. But if I were to do so, it would explicilty be with the acknowledgement that my Subjectivism is no longer a view about the same thing as remaining Objectivists'. That brings me to my last point about your question, Eric. I wholeheartedly agree with you that there are difficult and potentially interesting questions for Subjectivists to pursue. I certainly don't think it's easy to figure out what I value or what that would require of me. What's at issue for me here is philosophical import. The project of answering those questions seems to me roughly on a par with tackling the challenge to create the funnest possible game and then figure out the best strategy for winning it. And that just doesn't get my philosophical hackles up.
Toggle Commented Feb 7, 2014 on Favorite objections to subjectivism at PEA Soup
Jamie, Certainly, saying that there are no reasons to favor Subjectivism would be hyperbolic. But most of the arguments I've seen seemed to me not to actually do very much to support the view at all. So, for instance, I actually do find a lot of Williams-style arguments that normative reasons have to be able to serve as our reasons compelling. But without the Humean theory of motivation—which I reject—that does nothing to move me towards Subjectivism. As for Schroeder, I think Slaves is easily the best defense of the view. But that's precisely how I read it—it shows why Subjectivism doesn't fall to a rash of important worries. It does very little to tell me why I should accept Subjectivism in the first place, other than that it accommodates my intuitions that some guys have reasons to go or not go to parties because of their desires about dancing. I have those intuitions, but I think Objectivism can accommodate them, too. And for the reasons I mentioned in my last comment regarding Subjectivism as an error theory, I'm pretty motivated to go in that direction. As for Markovits, I'm not sure I'm familiar with the relevant stuff. Are you talking about the anti-Parfit thing she presented at the UNC workshop we were both at, or is this something else? I do recall that in the workshop paper she tried to alleviate the error theoretic concerns I mentioned. I didn't find her balms very soothing. And for reasons already mentioned, that sort of seals the deal for me. Brad, I don't mean to ignore your question. I just don't have much to say because I don't actually support the Reasons First argument so much as I think it can be fruitfully read as a (perhaps failed) attempt to make concrete these much more vague worries about guidance.
Toggle Commented Feb 6, 2014 on Favorite objections to subjectivism at PEA Soup
One objection I find compelling, at least from a particular perspective on the function of a normative theory, is that Subjectivism amounts to little more than an error theory. The question that drives normative inquiry (at least for me) is whether there is any sort of independent guidance for our actions, whether the universe gives a hoot about what we do (minus the anthropomorphizing). But Subjectivism says it's all up to me (or maybe my rational or knowledgeable counterpart). So I provide my own guidance, and to me that's hardly better than saying there's no guidance at all. It could still turn out to be the truth, of course, but that would just mean that, for me, normative theorizing would lose all interest. (I think Daniel's "Reasons First" objection is one way of trying to make this broader point.) (Oh, and FWIW, I'm also with Doug that there's little to nothing to speak in favor of the view anyway.)
Toggle Commented Feb 5, 2014 on Favorite objections to subjectivism at PEA Soup
I was going to say something incredibly insightful that would lead to total consensus, Jamie, but I'll respect your wishes.
I am pleased to announce the official launch of Philosophical Trajectories, a data-collection project dedicated to helping philosophers learn from each other's publishing experiences. Many thanks to those of you who helped with the beta testing. I encourage everyone to... Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2013 at PEA Soup
I am starting a new project to help philosophers share and learn from each other's publishing experiences. The project combines some of the goals of my (essentially defunct) Venue Poll project with ideas I got from using Andrew Cullison's fantastic... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2013 at PEA Soup
Dan, Certainly I'm aware that such bias exists. What I'm not clear on is how the opt-out (or even opt-in) function really serves to counteract such bias generally (even if it helps one or two individuals avoid it, though even that I'm not convinced of), especially given the sorts of things T.M. mentions regarding what we might call "bias revenge." What's more, we should keep in mind the extent to which the information you're worried about is available elsewhere online. Someone's first initial and last name (plus knowing they are a philosopher) can get me pretty far on Google if they haven't made a concerted effort to minimize their web presence. The upshot is that I'm not convinced that, either generally or in nearly any specific case, the potential harms of having one's name on this list would outweigh the benefits (either to one or to the profession) of having it be non-optional. and thus (hopefully) more complete. This is not to say, however, that it isn't a good idea to limit information listed to the sort of "CV-type" information you mention. Of course, given Googleability, that might end up being merely expressive of our view that other information is irrelevant, rather than instrumental in actually preventing bias, but that can still be important (and may even counteract bias when we take a longer view). If the information were thus limited, though, it seems even less clear to me that we would have any reason to make it optional (in or out).
Toggle Commented May 12, 2013 on A Searchable Database of Philosophers? at PEA Soup
I'm not entirely sure what to think about this, but let me play devil's advocate for a moment, at least: Why exactly is it good to have an opt-out option, or any subject control of this at all? I'm fairly certain I can't opt out when someone creates a Wikipedia page about me, why should I be able to when it comes to the Big Book of Philosophers? Might not the most neutral version of this database be one where seeing someone's information tells you nothing about what they think of the database or the information about them listed there, even the minimal information that they either chose not to opt-out or never found out about the database? And, on the side of this, what are some legitimate reasons a person would have for opting out, reasons that are strong enough to outweigh the benefits of having this be a complete database?
Toggle Commented May 9, 2013 on A Searchable Database of Philosophers? at PEA Soup
Neal Stephenson's Anathem. The central characters are scientist/mathematician/philosophers on an Earth-like world in which all of the intellectuals sequestered themselves in monastery-like communities thousands of years ago. Parts of it read like a bizarre intro text with all the names changed. N.B.: It's over 900 pages long. Also, though they're not as overtly philosophical, Stephenson's philosophical background is evident in a number of his other books. Also, many of them are really good.
Toggle Commented Apr 24, 2013 on Philosophy in Novels at PEA Soup
Accolades, exclamation points, etc.