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Hi, everyone. Meena Krishnamurthy has very generously allowed me to post a few prelimary thoughts on the above topic and I thought I'd shard the link here to maximize the likelihood that I have a chance to benefit from your... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2014 at PEA Soup
Hi, Sally, I'm excited about your post, but feel a bit sheepish about contributing, since I know so little about your recent work. But my curiosity has gotten the better of me, so here goes: Having attended the Pacific session on your essay collection, I'm a bit surprised by what you say above about being uncertain about how to characterize your method, since I'd felt after that session as if I had a fairly clear picture of what you were up to and how it differed both from the traditional approach via analysis and experimental philosophy. Your project, as I understood you to be characterizing it there, reminded me of Millikan's approach in Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories. Her idea is not to begin with a set of concepts we have an independent handle on, but to give quasi-stipulative definitions of certain key notions, e.g. that of a proper function, and then show how they earn their keep by their ability to help us explain something that as philosophers want to explain, in her case, the nature of content. I'd understood you to be doing something similar with your concepts of woman and man. You stipulate the contours of these concepts and then defend their use by showing how they allow us to understand certain social phenomena we'd like, as philosophers, to understand. That's no doubt over-simplified, but does something like that strike you as right? For my money and given that our ordinary concepts seem often to contain conflicting strands, this can be one of the more sensible ways of approaching philosophical questions.
Toggle Commented Jul 10, 2013 on Featured Philosopher: Sally Haslanger at PEA Soup
I think it is not surprising that, in some cases, we may resent people for doing things that were stupid things to do, but not immoral, if they turn out badly for us. And it is also not surprising were we to feel guilty for performing such an act, were it to turn out badly for someone else. (Maybe a case of accidentally hurting someone's feelings by doing something that is morally permissible for you to do, but not that important to you, would be an example.) If you have the further intuition that it is appropriate for Sandra to feel moral guilt for performing a1 in the case in which it is stipulated that SC is the true moral theory and that we are warranted in feeling moral resentment when she does under the same stipulation, then your intuitions are not the same as mine.
Toggle Commented Apr 26, 2010 on Consequentialism and Uncertainty at PEA Soup
Hi, Doug, We can and do blame agents for different sorts of failure, not all of which involve moral evaluations. I can blame someone for doing something stupid, because they acted on a belief all of their evidence spoke against. That's not a moral evaluation of their act. There's no 'tight connection' between that sort of blameworthiness and subjective *rightness*. If you want to insist that the attitude that I have to someone who acts stupidly isn't blame, then I don't have the intuition that Sandra is to blame if she performs a1 over any of A3, on the assumption of the truth of SC. In so far as I have an intuition that Sandra is to be faulted for performing a1 or a2, its on the grounds that she's acted contrary to her evidence (or credences). So, if Sandra believes SC, despite her evidence, and so performs a1, I *may* say that what she's done is unreasonable because she doesn't believe as she ought, given her evidence, and so she doesn't act as she ought, given her evidence. Or, if she herself doesn't believe her evidence supports SC, but does what she knows to be the SC supported action anyway, I may say that she doesn't do as she ought, given her beliefs. But neither of those 'ought's is moral, it's the 'ought' of rational action. The standard against which I measure the degree of ideality her action possesses is the standard of practical rationality. So, I still want to keep the 3 different 'ought's above distinct and add information-sensitive 'ought' of practical rationality. Andrew, #2: Yes, the relevant information can be normative information. "ought" propositions are cheap. There are at least as many possible ones as there are possible values for each of the two parameters. What I am challenging is the assumption that the resulting propositions are always distinctively moral 'ought's. It may be that some of them are. I'm not sure. But not all of them are, so that "Sandra ought perform an act of Type A3" in the above scenario is both true and clearly moral is what I'm not now seeing. So, I think there can be normative information relative 'ought's, but haven't yet found one that looks like a clear case of a moral 'ought'. Your two examples look like 'ought's of practical rationality: e.g. 'given my evidence and given my ends (e.g. to not do something horribly morally wrong), what government policy ought I support?' That's not a moral use of 'ought'. #1: So, yes, non-true standards can be parameter values. Context determines which standard is selected and these can get selected. So, if I believe SC and SC is false, my use of "ought" *may* (but needn't) take SC as a value for the standard parameter.
Toggle Commented Apr 26, 2010 on Consequentialism and Uncertainty at PEA Soup
Hi, Doug. Interesting case. I'm mostly with Jamie, but want to introduce a couple of distinctions that maybe clarifies a point that I think he is trying to make--or, at any rate, I want to make. On the view that I like 'ought's have a parameter that *can* and do take a body of information as a value. (Looks like I'm with Jamie here, which is news to me. Yay!) In these cases, the proposition itself is relative to a body of information. On the view I defend, these correspond to so-called 'subjective' "ought"s. But that same parameter can also take circumstances as a value; the resulting proposition is relative to circumstances and these are correspond to the so-called 'objective' "ought"s. (From what Jamie says above, I take it he doesn't think this.) On my view, these two uses of "ought" aren't in competition with one another; there's no need to pick. Also, on the view I like, there is a separate parameter that, when "ought"s are used evaluatively, takes a standard of some kind as a value. We can wonder about how a particular standard is selected at a context as a value, but the important point is that this itself is not information- sensitive, at least not in the sense of reflecting our uncertainty as to which standard is correct. Though there may be cases where information is relevant for determining which standard is selected, the important point is that uncertainty with respect to which standard is the 'correct' one is NOT built into the proposition itself. Does this mean that uncertainty with respect to which standard is correct never arises? Or that uncertainty about which standard is correct doesn't give rise to its own puzzles? No, it doesn't. I think the way to represent this is as an uncertainty as to which "ought" statements are true. That's Sandra's problem. She's uncertain as to whether SC or Kantianism is true, so she's uncertain as to which 'ought' proposition is true. And that looks to me like a straightforward case of uncertainty about what to believe. If that's right, then we should keep distinct three different ways we might assess what Sandra does: 1) Does she do as she ought, given the true moral theory and given her information? 2) Does she do as she ought, given the true moral theory and given the circumstances? and 3) Does she believe as she ought, given her information about which moral theory is likely to be correct? It looks to me, Doug, like its the last assessment that is at issue in your puzzle and that's why I think Jamie is suggesting that issue about ought-evaluation raised by your puzzle isn't a moral-ought evaluation.
Toggle Commented Apr 23, 2010 on Consequentialism and Uncertainty at PEA Soup
Hi, Campbell. I'm not sure I see the connection between deontic logic and the claim that in English "must", etc. are best understood as quantifiers over possibilities. But I don't think your question depends upon there being an interesting connection. You're thinking: if being a modal requires being a quantifier over possibilties, then shouldn't we understand *some* of the disputes about how to understand the semantics of "must" etc in English as a dispute about whether they're modals? I hedged this a bit by saying that "modal" is a term for an expression "best understood" as a quantifier, etc., but that's not quite fair to those who don't think "must" etc. are quantifiers. So, let me be a bit more careful: I think "modal" gets used among linguists and most philosophers of language as an expression for terms that it agree are canonically held among experts to be quantifiers over possibilities. Then we can raise the question about whether they are really so best understood. (In some of my posts about flexible contextualism, I said a few things about why that's the canonical view about "must" etc.) I don't think that's the canonical view among linguists about '...knows...'. I guess the punchline is that, since we're talking about descriptive semantics and so need to have a look at what linguists say about various expressions, it seems to me our discussion will proceed most easily if we adopt their usage for "modal". I take it that usage treats "modal expression" as a term for expressions that are canonically thought in linguistics to function as quantifiers. That would keep "...knows...." off the list, but still allow for debate about whether there is good linguistic evidence to put it on the list. Remember that this issue arose because of another terminological one, i.e. how to use "contextualism". Since both issues are terminological, one important standard for settling them, I'd have thought, is best fit with most general use (esp among experts). That's the one I'm relying on. I'm not going to call the cops if someone wants to use the expressions differently, but there's an increased risk of miscommunication, I think.
Toggle Commented Jul 15, 2009 on Metaethics, Semantics, and Metasemantics at PEA Soup
I see. I guess I think there are two different ways you could use 'a modal expression'. One way would be as you suggested, as a indefinite description for any term that is amenable to treatment in a modal logic. That's seems fine, but leaves it open whether there is any natural language that contains any particular modal term in that sense. Then I see that "so and so knows that such and such" may turn out to be a modal expression in that sense. I was using that term, though, as a description for an expression in a natural language whose semantic features are best understood as functioning as a quantifier over possibilities. I guess I was expressing doubt that this was so for "so and so knows such and such", but I don't have a compelling argument for that. I wonder if linguists have any work on that. If I were to try to develop a descriptive semantics for 'knows', that'd be where I'd start. I should add, though, that I've looked at some of the linguistics literature on modals and I've never seen anyone include 'knows' on their list of modal expressions. Looking at what the SEP entry has to say on epistemic logic, I see that it reports that Hintikka has proposed a formal treatment for "knows" according to which c knows that a is true iff a is true in all the worlds compatible with what c knows. That would give 'knows' the same truth-conditions that solipsistic contextualists give to speaker c's assertion of "must a" (where the modal is being used epistemically, not deontically). I'm not a solipsistic contextualist, but I do think "must a" has solipsistic uses. But I don't hear those uses as saying the same thing as "c knows that a". Do you? Just glancing at the Hintikka proposal, it looks to me very like, in some respects, the way Stalnaker in "Inquiry" represents an agent's belief state. This way of understanding the proposal makes a lot more sense to me. On this understanding of "c knows that a iff in all possible worlds compatible with what c knows, it is the case that a" the RHS doesn't give the truth-conditions for a use of the expression on the LHS. Rather, the RHS specifies the conditions under which c counts as knowing a. That would give epistemic modal logic a role in theorizing about mental states and the norms governing them, without taking on any semantic commitments which, to my ear and limited knowledge of the linguistics literature on modals in English (and German), seems implausible.
Toggle Commented Jul 13, 2009 on Metaethics, Semantics, and Metasemantics at PEA Soup
Hi, Campbell, I don't know enough about how 'it is known that...' functions in epistemic modal logic to quite follow your line of thought. Could you say a bit more?
Toggle Commented Jul 13, 2009 on Metaethics, Semantics, and Metasemantics at PEA Soup
Oh, cool; we agree. An ideal outcome. Thanks again for all of your comments. I've found thinking this through with you very helpful.
Toggle Commented Jul 12, 2009 on Flexible Contextualism about 'Ought's at PEA Soup
Hi, Steve, Well, maybe we can at least agree that I don't see a problem for my view. Earlier, you seemed happy when I separated out the two cases and you then asked me to say what my view would say about a case in which it's stipulated that Consultant does not provide his information. Having answered that in a way that you now say you agree with, you say there there is another objection that I am refusing to answer, but I'm just not seeing what it is. The Doctor at the time of her utterance has an intention. That intention's content is given in the way that I have already characterized. One thing that does not give it's content is the Doctor's mental enumeration of each source of information. Compare again the case of domain restriction with quantifiers over individuals. Before the add/drop period is over, I *can't* enumerate every student in the domain of "every student will get a D or better for the course". But that doesn't mean that there isn't a domain for my quantifier. Depending on your view of determinism, it's either settled and I don't know what it is or it's settled in the future. To settle the domain, we need both a speaker's intention and the individuals in the world that 'answer' to it. A student's decision to add or drop can, then, make a difference to what has to be true in order for what I've said to be true. Consultant's role in the cases in which the information is conveyed is a bit like the student's, I suppose. It doesn't matter here whether the Consultant's information is expected or not. Let it be totally unexpected. Once conveyed, the Doctor can react to that information in a number of different ways. If she receives the information before writing the prescription, a natural thing for her to say is "oh. I guess I was wrong. I ought to prescribe Z". If she does, on my view, she is manifesting a prior intention to include information like Consultant's. [Maybe (I'm not sure), it would help to remember that, on my view, it's the speaker's intention, given facts about the world, that together determine what the domain-restrictor is. But the speaker can be ignorant of or incorrect about the relevant facts. That's how, even, when Consultant's information is unexpected, the information may still be, as in the fuller case just described, already in the domain-restricting set. ] Now, I see that you've invited me to look at things from the Consultant's perspective. But that is just what I think I've done in my last couple of posts. I suppose I most explicitly addressed the question: How should we assess Consultant's decision not to share the information?" since we had agreed to stipulate we were discussing a case in which the Consultant doesn't share his information. So, let me explicitly address the issue that, as I best understand it, is the question you want answered: Should the Consultant share the information or not? What would be more cooperative? How can my view accommodate a 'yes' answer to the first question and a 'sharing would be more cooperative' to the second? Here I'm just going to say what I said about our assessment of Consultant when he doesn't share his information. The question "should Consultant share his information with Doctor?" is a different question from the question "what should Doctor do"? When Consultant makes claims about what Doctor ought to do in conversation with Doctor, he is best understood as aiming to address the same question as Doctor. My view captures that in the way I've already discussed. But when Consultant asks himself "should I share the information or not?" he himself deliberating about a different practical question. So, no surprise, the domain for his quantifier may be different. What determines it? Consultant's intentions at the time of his utterance. Let's assume what I think best addresses your concern, that Consultant intends to be asking about what would be most cooperative. On my view, that having that intention means that the value selected for the standard parameter for the question is the same as the Doctor's when she says "I ought to prescribe either X or Y". If Consultant is reasonable, he will take that standard to be given by how Patient's health is faring in each of the possibilities in the question's domain. What restricts that domain? Well, here again the answer depends upon Consultant's intentions. Depending up what his intentions are, the value for the second parameter may be either by some body of information that his intention selects, given the facts, or the circumstances themselves. Since Consultant is deliberating, let's stipulate a natural case in which he intends to select a body of information. The next question is: which body of information is he best understood as intending? We'd need to fill out the case, but it seems typical for a speaker to intend a body that includes his own information. If so, then what we have is the following question: Among the worlds compatible with the body of information that at least includes Consultant's, in which set of those worlds is Patient healthier, the worlds in which Consultant shares his information with Doctor, or the worlds in which he withholds it? It doesn't take an MD to see that in the stipulated scenario, Patient does better in the worlds in which the information is shared--after all, he doesn't die in nearly as many of them. You seem to think that I am for some reason forced to assume that when Consultant is deliberating about whether to share his information with Doctor, he is putting to himself the very same practical question Doctor does when she asks herself which drug she ought to prescribe. You seem to think that if I can't show how on my view those questions are the same, Consultant does not count, on my view, as cooperative when or if he shares the information. But my view *shouldn't* hold that those two questions are the same for the simple reason that they are *different* questions and seeing Consultant's act of sharing the information as cooperative does not require that they are the same.
Toggle Commented Jul 12, 2009 on Flexible Contextualism about 'Ought's at PEA Soup
Hi, Jussi, You're right that "contextualism" gets used in different ways in different areas of philosophy. My thought is that because it's generally agreed that 'ought', 'must', and 'may', unlike "knows", are modals, we should stick with the term as it's used in the literature on modals generally. Another reason is that linguists agree that modals should be given the most unified account compatible with the data, so that what we have is a bare modal expression that is sometimes used epistemically, sometimes alethically, sometimes deontically, etc. It would be weird to not have a single name for that view, but have a name for each of the different uses. (We don't, for example, have different names for utilitarianism, depending on the area to which we apply its principles.) ----------------------- An aside about unity: Why is this important? Because contextualism and its rivals are descriptive semantic theories and as such they are beholden to the empirical data. Unity and simplicity are important methodological criteria of adequacy among linguists doing descriptive semantics for the same reason compositionality is: descriptive semantic theories are to figure in explanations of usage by competent speakers; the more complex and unwieldy the theory is, the less plausible it is that the meanings the theory assigns to the expressions are ones that ordinary speaker's grasp. Given this, anyone working on descriptive semantics for an expression can't ignore either usages of what linguists hold to be the same expression or the semantics of expressions linguists hold to be related. ------------------ Of course, if you use "contextualism" just as a thesis about modals when used to make moral claims, then the proposal I offered doesn't have a shifting standard parameter. But I'm not using 'contextualism' in that way. On my contextualist view, 'ought' is sometimes used to express a legal requirement, e.g. "visitors must stop at stop signs". This is the same 'ought' as in "Doctor ought to prescribe Z" and "one ought to help others when one can". By 'same' I mean they make the same contribution to determining a proposition on an occasion of use. What makes the claim expressed in the first example a legal one and in the second two moral ones (the first of the two so-called 'subjective', the second 'objective') is contextual modulation. What distinguishes the first from the second two, is a shifting standard parameter. What distinguishes the second two from each other is a shift in the information/circumstances parameter, with the first taking information, the second circumstances as a value. So, what about the reason you offer for thinking that there is a generic overall 'ought'? Well, I think we need a better reason to think there is one than that, since I myself am not sure there is a more general question of what you ought to do. I'd like to have the content of that question explained to me. Here is one thing you could mean: You could mean to ask what you ought to do, according to the standard that is most important to follow? You'd need a way of determining which standard that is, but that would be a metasemantic and metaphysical issue. Most importantly, the 'all-in "ought"' would still be context sensitive. I myself don't know how else to understand that question. Also, I have a question about what the generic 'ought' view applied to the examples above would say. Are they all generic 'ought's? That wouldn't fit with ordinary speakers' intuitions, I'd expect. It would also predict that certain uses would express contradictions that don't. Suppose we're talking about the traditions of some tribe regarding selection of their next chief. The man that would be selected by following the traditions we agree would be a very bad man. It seems that I can felicitously say "Well, they must pick him, but they really shouldn't". Saying that is felicitous if we've got different values for the standard parameter selected in the first and second conjunct, but not if we've got a single, generic 'ought' in both. Last point: You may well be right about Ralph's view. I'd taken him to be offering a semantic proposal, but you're no doubt more familiar with his view than I am.
Toggle Commented Jul 11, 2009 on Metaethics, Semantics, and Metasemantics at PEA Soup
One more thing: relativists in MacFarlane's sense also assumes that modals are quantifiers.
Toggle Commented Jul 10, 2009 on Metaethics, Semantics, and Metasemantics at PEA Soup
Hi, Jussi, Just a couple of other quick clarifications about contextualism that I don't think affect your main point. (I'm not sure that I agree with your main point, but I don't want to focus on that.) Sorry to go on about this, but I've found that there is a lot of confusion about what contextualism is among folks not familiar with the literature in phil language or linguistics on this topic and I think it's important to get clear on what the view is. "Contextualism" is the name of a kind of semantic theory about modals according to which they have a certain formal features that include parameters for contextually determined values. Contextualists can disagree about what parameters there are to get filled. Having said that, if we follow the literature on modals in linguistics, we'll say that to count as a contextualist view, a semantic proposal must hold that sentences containing modals have the characteristic formal features. Ralph's view is not an instance of contextualism in the linguist's/philosopher of language's sense, since he thinks that "ought"s are sentential operators. The view I'm discussing takes them to be quantifiers. (some familiar examples: "not" is an operator, "every" is a quantifier.) Treating modal expressions as quantifiers is a hallmark feature of contextualism about modals as it is understood in phil language and linguistics and since it is also the canonical semantics for modals in both areas, I think it worth following that usage. (This is also how the term is used in the literature on epistemic modals and since linguists and philosophers of language think that the epistemic and normative modals are best given a unified account, that's another reason to prefer this usage.) A second clarificatory point: there's a common, incorrect assumption that the 'ought's in question are always moral, so that a contextualist about 'ought's who accepts a second, standard parameter is required to hold that it is a varying moral standard that gets contextually selected. But there are other sorts of 'ought's and the contextualist is best understood as aiming to provide a unified account of all of them. So, the standard needn't be moral. It may be legal or prudential, for example. Given this, it is open to a contextualist to hold that, when used morally, 'ought's always select an absolute, moral standard in a context of utterance--that's what makes them moral 'ought's. So, contextualism about 'ought's need not collapse into moral relativism. (I'm not sure what you mean by "metaethical subjectivism". Is that an instance of metaethical relativism that holds the standards are the speaker's? If so, then the same move blocks contextualism's collapse into that too.) I'm not sure why you think that a standards parameter would make contextualism collapse into relativism. Is it because you've been making that assumption? Also, I'm not following your point about invariantism. Anyway, I'm straying badly from the main thread of your post, but I wanted to clear up an confusion about one of the views under discussion.
Toggle Commented Jul 10, 2009 on Metaethics, Semantics, and Metasemantics at PEA Soup
Hi, Jussi, I just wanted to add a couple of small points about your characterization of contextualism. You've got two different formulations in your original post. (I'm going to put your point in my terms for reasons that I hope will become clear.) On the one, normative modals have truth-values relative to an informational parameter and on the other, there are two parameters, one selects information, the other a standard. It seems to me that there are two parameters and that we need to allow the first parameter to sometimes take circumstances as a value. (The reason is that if normative modals are always relative to information, we won't be able to capture their intuitively objective uses.) So at least ONE contextualist isn't captured by your characterization. (I also *think* that in Kratzer's original proposal, the first parameter only took circumstances. If so, her proposal wouldn't be captured either.) The second point is that I don't think contextualism is best characterized as having an argument-place for a name of an action. I don't know of any contextualist whose view could be characterized that way, but maybe there is one in metaethics somewhere that does that; I'm mostly familiar with contextualism about modals in the philosophy of language and linguistics. There the default contextualist view is that modals are quantifiers over possibilities. The two parameters restrict or restrict and order the possibilities in the modal's domain and we evaluate the whole modalized proposition for truth by seeing whether the prejacent is true in some, all, the best, etc. of the possibilities in the domain. (The prejacent is roughly, the proposition that is getting modalized, e.g. that water is H20 in "necessarily, water is H2O" and that you don't lie in "you must not lie".)
Toggle Commented Jul 10, 2009 on Metaethics, Semantics, and Metasemantics at PEA Soup
Ok. So I take myself at this point to have shown how, on my view, in the case in which Consultant does share his information, his "You (to Doctor) ought to prescribe Z" is a matter of addressing the same question Doctor takes herself to be addressing. That's because in this case, the values for both parameters of the modals in Doctor's and Consultant's statements are the same. The second case is the one in which Consultant is stipulated to refuse to share the information that Patient is taking W with Doctor and Doctor is stipulated to have no other way to acquire it. Here, I'm mostly going to briefly repeat what I said in the first two of my last three posts about this case. I want to be a bit more clear about why I'm emphasizing that, on my view, the modals have two separate parameters. One is that keeping the parameters separate yields an elegant solution to puzzles about conflicts between preferences and circumstances (cases in which circumstances are such that not all of someone's preferences can be simultaneously satisfied). In those cases, keeping the values for the parameters separate allows for clear preference rankings that we don't get if we don't keep them separate. (For details, see Kratzer's "Modality".) Another advantage of keeping separate, though, is that doing so allows us to capture all of our intuitions in cases like the one I'm discussing. Doctor is in a Jackson-case situation and in those situations, most people hear the Doctor's 'ought' as sensitive to information, not circumstances. When we add the non-information-sharing Consultant to that scenario, we've still got a Jackson-case. Since Consultant has different information than Doctor is able to have (by stipulation), it can't be that our utterance of "Consultant ought to share his information" shares a domain with Doctor's "I ought to prescribe either X or Y". But since there are two parameters for modals, on my view, that does not mean that our modal utterance has nothing in common with Doctor's. The values for the information parameter are different, but the value for the standard parameter is the same. That's what makes it the 'should' of cooperation in this case and that seems to me to precisely fit what we pretheorectially want to say about it. I don't think that this is wholly different from what Steve and Gunnar want to say. Here's where I now think we disagree. Steve and Gunnar think there is one parameter for our modal, an amalgam of information and standard, whereas I think there are two separate parameters and also that the parameter that sometimes selects information, selects circumstances. Steve and Gunner think there is a problem about how Doctor and Consultant can be seen to be addressing the same question in the original case. To solve that problem, they offer what seems to me the elegant solution of focussing on a practical interest that is shared between Doctor and Consultant. (I'm not sure whether they think this means that the Doctor and Consultant are both addressing a common question and, if so, what that common question is.) I, in contrast, think that with my flexible contextualist account, we can see how there is no problem in that case. The case in which we say of the non-cooperative Consultant "he should share his information" is a different 'should' uttered in a different context. But there is a perfectly good sense in which it is the 'should' of cooperation, since the value for the standard parameters are the same. Picking up on a shared standard seems to me to echo in some ways what I take Steve and Gunnar to want to say about shared practical interests in the original case, though we differ on how to flesh out the core thought and on how widely to rely on it for explanatory purposes.
Toggle Commented Jul 10, 2009 on Flexible Contextualism about 'Ought's at PEA Soup
Thanks for the comments, Steve. I think we're still talking past each other a bit, but I think I better understand where. And I better understand your view. Part of my problem is that I'm not seeing the problem your view is brought in to solve. I agree that, if there is a problem, it's an elegant solution. But I'm thinking that if we accept the right flexible contextualism, there isn't a problem. Let me say a bit about where I'm now seeing as the issue between us as lying. I want to separate out two issues. 1) In the original case, Consultant provides her information and then asserts "So, you ought not to prescribe X and Y; you ought to prescribe Z" This is in response to an earlier assertion by Doctor "I ought to prescribe either X or Y". It's common ground, I take it, that we have the intuition that Consultant is offering a conflicting answer to a common question. The challenge was to find a way for a contextualist to capture this. 2) Imagine Consultant deliberating about whether to provide his information. He's wondering whether it would be cooperative or not to provide it. Should he provide it? Or, suppose he refuses to. How do we want to assess his action? When we're wondering whether it would be cooperative or not, are we inclined or disinclined to say "Consultant should provide his information to Doctor"? I think we are inclined to say that he should and thereby recognize that doing so would be the cooperative thing to do. In a case where Doctor is stipulated to not have any way of getting that information, how can contextualist capture that intuition? I think these are separate issues. (I'm not sure what you think about that.) Since I think they're separate, I'm treating them separately. On the first: One of the things that I really like about your and Gunnar's notion of news-sensitivity is that I think developed in the way I want to and combined with the flexible contextualism laid out in my epistemic modals paper, I think it is easy to say how, in the original case, Doctor and Consultant are giving rival answers to a common question. The story is roughly this: We find the information that restricts the modal in Doctor's original utterance by finding out which set of information is the set she intends to restrict her modal. I'm thinking of news-sensitivity as a readiness to recognize new, relevant information as in the domain-restricting set. (aside: since you don't like my reliance on dispositions, I'm assuming that's not also how you understand news-sensitivity.) So, when Doctor replies to Consultant "You're right; I ought to prescribe Z" she is best understood as manifesting that intention. What this means is that the Consultant's information is one perfectly good sense 'already in' the domain-restricting set for Doctor's original utterance, namely, in the same way that a student who is in my course at its end is in the domain for my utterance "every student will get a D or better" said before the end of the add/drop period. Which question Doctor is answering is partly a function of what information is in the domain-restricting set and since Consultant's info is already in there, they're answering the same question. I offer this solution to *this case*. It is a natural and familiar kind of case of two people deliberating together (or one person deliberating and using another as a 'sounding board'). It is most natural to assume that it is group information, not just the speaker's information, that matters in these cases--that's generally the point of the conversation. (I say more about when the relevant info is a body possessed by a group and how group membership gets selected in my epistemic modals paper.) Given all this, I'm not yet seeing a problem for the contextualist about cooperation that needs to be solved, at least not for this case. Rats. Our realtor is here--off to look at houses. I'll get to the second issue later today, I hope, but I've already said most of what I have to say about it in my last two posts. J.
Toggle Commented Jul 9, 2009 on Flexible Contextualism about 'Ought's at PEA Soup
Thanks, Steve. Your comments have helped me better to understand why you and Gunnar take the line you do. Some points before I pick up the main thread of your post. 1. Please remember that these are blog posts, not a paper, so sometimes I'm simplifying a bit for the sake of brevity. If you haven't already, I'd like to recommend that you read my paper on epistemic modals on my webpage. There I develop an overall, single contextualist treatment of all the modals and you can get a clear idea of my view in more detail than I can give in a blog post. In the posts here, I'm focussing on how my view handles a particular case (the Doctor case) and you can see how the view handles a much broader array of cases, e.g. Barnes' case, from that paper. 2. On Elizabeth Barnes' point: My 'yes, yes' remark wasn't meant to cover all cases, only the one under discussion, one I'd been assuming we agreed was an ought-statement whose truth was relative to the speaker's information. I agree with her that her sample sentence is felicitous in some contexts and disagree with her suggestion about why that's so. "I simply have no way to know what I ought to do" can be felicitous when the value for the first of the two parameters are circumstances, not information OR when the agent's intentions pick out a body of information that goes beyond her information. The former kind of case would be a so-called 'objective' 'ought', on my view. I haven't discussed those here, since the Doctor case is a Jackson case and it's generally agreed that those are 'subjective'. (I don't like that terminology because it suggests ambiguity where I think there is context-sensitivity.) The second kind of case is familiar from the literature on epistemic modals (originally from DeRose's paper). I discuss this kind of case in my EM paper. Suppose (adjusting his example to make it an 'ought' case) Patient has an incredibly paternalistic doctor. Doctor runs various tests to determine the cause of Patient's symptoms, but he absolutely refuses to share the information with her. Instead, he simply tells her what treatment he has chosen for her. After exhausting all her options for getting his information, Patient explains the situation to her friend. She concludes, "so you see, I simply have no way of knowing what I ought to do. Maybe Doctor knows, but I can't be sure that he has my best interests in mind." (For more on how this kind of case is treated in my account, see my "Canonical Contextualism about EM" on my UNL webpage.) 3. I should be a bit more precise about what I'm thinking about the issue of the Consultant providing his information. If the Consultant doesn't provide it, but Doctor in a hindsight evaluation in which she has the information recognizes that there was, prior to action, some way that she recognizes as practicable that she could have obtained it, and on those grounds recognizes it as part of the information she intended to include in the domain restriction set, then the Consultant's information was in the relevant set. When I say that it's wasn't, I am thinking of a case in which, in a hindsight evaluation, Doctor does not recognize that information as having been in the domain restricting set. This is evidence for her original intention to exclude it. So, I'm assuming that we both mean to be talking about a case in which Doctor has NO WAY to possess the information Consultant has prior to action's becoming necessary. As I've said, IF a speaker's use of a modal expresses a proposition whose truth is sensitive to her information (as we have in the Doctor case) AND IF there is NO WAY some piece of relevant information could be known by her (where 'could' is an ability, given circumstances modal) by an investigation she recognizes as practicable (i.e. as determined by her intentions), THEN she is not best understood as intending a modal whose domain is restricted by that information. This feature of the case is important to keep in mind here. This feature makes it different from the original one I discussed in important ways and we need to be careful not to shift between the two. (The original case is one in which the Consultant does provide his information and the issue there was whether or not that information was in the domain-restricting set. I argued that, (roughly) if Doctor recognizes it as the kind of information she intended to take into account all along, then it is in.) Let's keep our eye on the larger picture here: My view is a flexible contextualism where the domain restriction for the use of a modal, when it is restricted, is determined by speaker's intentions for what, in context, she would recognize as determining the values of two, *separate* parameters. In the case of modals used normatively, one of those parameters takes either circumstances or information as value, the other a standard of some kind. Right now, we're not thinking of a case in which there is no fact of the matter yet about whether Consultant will provide the information. We've stipulated that he isn't. That (together with the long thing above) puts it out. If there *isn't* a fact of the matter yet, then there isn't a fact of the matter yet about whether it's in the domain-restricting set. (Compare this with a similar case involving quantification over individuals: Suppose I say 'every student in my course will get a D or better" prior to the end of the add/drop period.) The case where there is no fact of the matter, though, is a different case, not the one we're talking about. In the case we're talking about, where the information Consultant has is completely unavailable (in my sense of 'unavailable') to Doctor, I think Doctor is best understood as not intending a domain restricted in part by that information. What about Consultant? Steve's comments make me think that I didn't express myself carefully enough in my last post, so I'll try again, more carefully. We've got two questions. 1) What should Doctor do? where the worlds in the domain over which 'should' quantifies are determined by Doctor's intentions (we're imagining Doctor putting that question to herself, that's why it's her intentions that matter) and 2) What should Consultant do, provide the information or not? here I'm imagining that the speaker is me, *I* am assessing what would be cooperative for consultant to do. So, it is my intentions that partly determine the values for the two parameters. These are different questions. So, it is no surprise that the sentences used to answer them are different 'should's in the sense that they have a different value for at least one of the two parameters. To answer the second question, I said in my last post, "On my account, we answer that question by looking at the worlds in which Consultant provides his information and the worlds in which he doesn't, each of which is also compatible with the rest of the information CONSULTANT has, including the information he has about Doctor's aims." Yes, Consultant's information is not the same as the Doctor's, so the domains in the modal sentences answering the two questions are different. But that's ok, because the questions are different. Some things to notice here: I am the speaker of "Consultant should provide the information about Patient's medical history to Doctor", but the information selected, I've said, is Consultant's. That's perfectly fine on my view, because on my view, there is no problem with the speaker intending to select a body of information that is someone else's. (I discuss this in my epistemic modals paper.) A second thing to notice is that, because my view has two parameters, not one, they can vary independently of one another. Here, what makes the statement a 'should' of cooperation is that the value for the standard parameter is the same as Doctor's, i.e. worlds in the domain are ranked in accordance with how well Patient's health is faring in them. My view differs from Steve's and Gunnar's in that I don't think we need to say that we abandon our interest in the truth of a bare normative modal statement whenever we receive new information. The perverse Consultant who refuses to provide his information is a pretty unusual case. In the typical case, where the information isn't in principle unavailable, we can say that the information is already included, so long as the speaker's intentions puts it in. We learn what those intentions are by observing a speaker's reactions to new information, either before or after action becomes necessary. In the original case I discussed, we can imagine Doctor saying, in response to Consultant's information (Z') "you're right; I ought not to prescribe either X or Y; I ought to prescribe Z". This is not most naturally heard as Doctor changing the topic on herself, as Gunnar and Steve would have it (as I understand them), but as correcting an earlier (perhaps warranted) judgment as false. Or take another, typical kind of case: Doctor receives the information about Patient's taking W after she's prescribed Y, but realizes that she could have easily obtained that information if she'd consulted Consultant before writing the prescription. Suppose she says (as would be natural) "I shouldn't have prescribed Y, I should have prescribed Z". Here she recognizes Consultant's information as in, even though she didn't have it prior to acting, because it was the kind of information her intention determined as 'available' (in my sense.)
Toggle Commented Jul 6, 2009 on Flexible Contextualism about 'Ought's at PEA Soup
Ok, I'm back. There seem to be two questions here: What is the content of Doctor's intention? and How is Consultant's providing his information cooperative on my account? Remember that, on my account, a plausible specification of the content of anyone's referential intention requires information about the triggerings of the disposition having that intention confers. As with any disposition, a concrete, warranted hypothesis about its nature requires information about more than a single triggering. (Imagine trying to develop a plausible, highly specific hypothesis about the nature of a particular glass's fragility from dropping it once.) So, in order to have something very concrete and plausible to say about the content of Doctor's intention, we need to fill out the case more; we'd need to know, for example, how would Doctor evaluate what she said in hindsight in various different scenarios? But that doesn't mean that we can't say anything plausible about the content of her intentions from our knowledge of what she said, the context in which she said it, and general information about what speakers in such context are like. (I.e. in the usual, Gricean way.) We can say, for example, that Doctor is in a context of deliberating about what drug to prescribe for Patient, that deliberators tend to be news-sensitive, and that doctors typically are aiming to do that which can be expected to best promote their patient's health, when deliberating as a doctor about what to do. What about Consultant? Would it be more cooperative, on my account, for him to share his information with Doctor, or to withhold it? The answer, on my account, is pretty straightforward. Consider the context and what information Consultant has about it. He knows that Doctor's evidence supports that either X or Y would provide a complete cure of Patient, while Z would provide only a partial cure. Consultant also knows that Patient is taking W and that taking W in conjunction with exactly one of X or Y, is lethal. He also knows that W is not lethal when combined with Z; Z, with W, is certain to provide a cure, as before. His knowledge of Doctor's context also supports that Doctor is aiming to do that which can be expected to best promote Patient's health. Cooperating with someone else involves doing what helps supports their aims. So, the question of what Consultant should do, provide the information or not, in order to be cooperative, is just the question, what should Consultant do in order to do what he can expect to best promote Doctor's aim of promoting Patient's health? or: Does providing the information about Patient's medical history better promote Patient's health or does withholding the info do that? On my account, we answer that question by looking at the worlds in which Consultant provides his information and the worlds in which he doesn't, each of which is also compatible with the rest of the information consultant has, including the information he has about Doctor's aims. It's clear, I hope, that the worlds in which Doctor has Consultant's information are worlds in which she can be better expected to promote Patient's health than the worlds in which she lacks that information--after all, she has a 50% likelihood of killing Patient in the latter, and none in the former. This means that, on my account, the cooperative thing for Consultant to do is share his information. (fyi: you can run the same argument, even if the only info that Consultant has that Doctor doesn't is that Patient is taking W.)
Toggle Commented Jul 4, 2009 on Flexible Contextualism about 'Ought's at PEA Soup
Hi, Steve, Sorry to have taken so long to get back to this. Two quick points. The first is that if I said anything that suggests I'm reducing referential intentions to dispositions, I misspoke. I don't need to take a stand on their relationship accept to say that having a referential intention with a certain content confers on the speaker a disposition to use and evaluate their usage of a modal sentence in conformance with an certain pattern. The second point is just a bit of background about the literature on modals. Somewhat surprisingly, not only has no one besides me argued in print for the claim that referential intentions determine modal restrictions, no one else offers any prediction-generating, metasemantic proposal for how those restrictions are determined. In my paper "A Defense of Canonical Contextualism about Epistemic Modals" I offer this oversight as a diagnosis for why some of the puzzles about EMs appear puzzling. (You can find the paper here: ) So, if you're interested in reading anything on different proposals for how context selects domain restrictions for the quantifiers, you need to go to the literature on quantification over individuals, since, as far as I now, there isn't any in the modals literature, besides my EM paper. Ok, now back to the Doctor case and identifying the content of a speaker's referential intention. To see how my view handles this case, I first need to get a bit more of the view on the table. On my view, referential intentions confer on us dispositions whose triggerings allow us to identify the nature of the dispostion and thereby form a evidentially warranted hypothesis about the contents of the intentions themselves. (Anyone interested in knowing more about my view about the relationship between dispositions and referential intentions, should have a look at my paper "Empirical Metaphysics" in the Phil Studies BSPC volume that came out in 2008 (also on my webpage) in which I provide a detailed spelling out and defense this account of their relationship.) We need to distinguish between a speaker's disposition to use and evaluate their usage of a modal sentence and what their intention, given an actual context, puts in the domain-determining restriction. I'm thinking of news-sensitivity as a kind of general disposition that deliberators have, one that alone doesn't settle what information plays a domain restricting role. So, that Doctor is news-sensitive to Consultant's information does not mean that Consultant's information is automatically in the domain-restricting set. That disposition can only help give us information about what information plays that role, together with a context. As I'm understanding your Consultant example, this issue is whether his information is within Doctor's power to reach. I completely agree that is a crucial factor in determining whether a piece of information is in or out of the domain-restricting set, as I hope I made clear in one of my replies to Mark. Yes, yes, no one has an intention to take into account relevant information they couldn't possibly have before acting. Cases in which some information is beyond a deliberator's power to reach are cases in which that information can't play a domain-restricting role. So, news-sensitivity is a matter of being prepared to take into account relevant information when it is available. Notice: Without a concrete spelling out of the notion, "availability" here is just as much a fudge term as "referential intention". Fortunately for me, it is easy to spell out availability in terms of speaker's intentions, given that I've got a concrete proposal for spelling out how we come to discover their contents. Without such a spelling out, you're stuck with the objections to that notion raised by von Fintel and Gillies and by MacFarlance to that notion when DeRose relied on it in his contextualist proposal for epistemic modals. Rats. I've actually got to run now. But more on consultant late (my time :) ) today....
Toggle Commented Jul 4, 2009 on Flexible Contextualism about 'Ought's at PEA Soup
Hi, Steve, Thanks for the further comments. I’ll order my comments on your comments by following your numbers. 1. About the comparatives: I’m not following your point about our not having a term “oughter than”. We both accept that modals are quantifiers over possibilities. Given that, we should both accept that they are like our other quantifiers, like “all” and “some” and “more than”. There is also no comparative “aller than”. “More than” is the comparative for quantifier over individuals. On the modals side, everyone who accepts that modals are quantifiers (even non-contextualists) agrees that “must” and “might” function like “all” and “some” respectively, but also accept that there are comparative modals like “is more likely than” or (using my example of a normative comparative) “is better than”. About Kratzer’s arguments for ordering sources—they don’t depend on counterfactual cases; maybe you’re thinking of Lewis’ use of a Kratzer-like framework for counterfactuals? I also don’t know what puzzle you’re alluding to when you talk of a ‘problem’ about ‘ranked possibilities’. Ranking possibilities is her solution to the puzzles about practical inferences and the Samaritan Paradox and also is required to handle comparative locutions. If you see another way of doing all that without an ordering source, I’d be interested to hear it! 2. Cool! So, I’ve convinced you that referential intentions are the way to determine restrictions on modal bases. You don’t discuss what determines those restrictions in any of your papers on modals and, it seems to me, any account that doesn’t address that question is ad hoc. (My original arguments for my view are in my paper, “A Defense of Canonical Contextualism about Epistemic Modals”, which you can find on my webpage here: ). About your case: Whether or not the Consultant decides to make the information about Patient’s taking W available to Doctor does not affect whether or not Doctor is sensitive to that information. Let me explain why I say this. To do that, I need to back up and say more about how I understand the relevant dispositions. My view about dispositions is utterly boring and standard. Here goes: Take fragility. At T1, a certain glass vase is fragile. That means that, at T1, it’s got some property in virtue of which it will break, if I drop it against a hard surface. Its fragility is a disposition it has already at T1, before we drop it or whether we drop it later. So, too with our referential intentions. We have something we mean to say while we are saying it. This is indeed ‘something we have in mind’. Having certain intentions is a mental feature of the person who has them. The question is: How does having this feature distinguish the person who has them from someone who doesn’t? Where the intention in question involves a kind of new-sensitivity, my answer is: It makes them disposed to react in certain ways to new information, to recognize it as in or out of the body of information they meant to take into account at the time of their utterance. This feature of a person, their intention, is a feature they have at the time of their utterance, independently of whether and how that disposition is later triggered. It’s just like fragility. Whether or not the vase is later dropped is neither here nor there with respect to the question of whether the vase was fragile at T1. It seems to me that there’s an idea here behind your question that is common with one behind Mark’s: Why wouldn’t deliberators make it easier on themselves by having more modest intentions? Why not have intentions that refuse to recognize certain information that is pretheoretically relevant to the question of what to do when doing so would make saying something true easier, on the view I’m defending? The answer is just a contingent fact about human beings: We don’t make it easier on ourselves. We just are news-sensitive in just the ways we think a theory needs to capture—e.g. we aim to take into account relevant information that it is foreseeable we will want to gather (e.g. by consulting other experts) and so too with unexpected sources of relevant information. 3. So....I completely agree that “our referential intentions…are…a function of what we had in mind at T1, rather than a function of what we would do or say at times after T1”. To think that appeal to dispositions blocks me from saying this is to presuppose something about dispositions that I reject. (See my comments under #2; having a disposition to Q at T1 shouldn’t be confused with Q-ings after T1, for example, being fragile at T1 shouldn't be confused with breaking after T1. Having a disposition at a time is what explains later manifestions of that disposition. And, of course, an object can have a disposition at a time, even if the circumstances of the disposition's triggering are never realized.
Toggle Commented Jun 15, 2009 on Flexible Contextualism about 'Ought's at PEA Soup
Steve, On your last point first: You're right; I think there are two argument places. I think that for the same reasons Kratzer enumerates in her seminal paper "Modality". (You need them both to solve certain puzzles and to handle comparative locutions, such as " better than...." and " more likely than...".) I also don't think standards are always set by ends, but that's another story. About the advice issue: It seems to me that we're not quite connecting, but I'm not sure I can put my finger on exactly where. It sounds to me as if you're thinking that Consultant's information isn't already in the body that restricts the domain of Doctor's original assertion until after Consultant provides it. But I'm denying that because I think the most natural understanding of Doctor's intentions puts it in there before Consultant provides it. So, for example, you say "suppose that without Consultant's information, it is very easy for Doctor to determine what she ought to do, but that with Consultant's information it becomes very hard to know what she ought to do, so that the likelihood of Doctor getting it right is lower if the additional information is provided." I don't know how to understand that without the assumption that Consultant's info isn't already in the relevant body. If it is, the probability can't shift by Consultant's providing it--whatever it was, it's the same before and after Consultant speaks. Steve and Mark, Let me say a bit more about why I say Consultant's info is already in there and in particular about how I understand the relevant intentions, since this seems to be unclear (e.g. to Mark in his post). The inspiration for my view is just Kaplan's account of denotation-determination for demonstratives. I should add that if you like Kripke/Putnam on names and natural kind terms, you're already stuck with referential intentions and need a way of cashing them out. You also need them if you like Donnellan on referential uses of definite descriptions and you need intentions playing a role in determining what's said and what's implicated if you like Grice on anything. So, the components of my view are straight off the shelf, totally familiar, everyday items in the philosopher of language's toolkit. The idea that we formulate the contents of these intentions to ourselves explicitly before speaking is just a non-starter. (If we had the contents of our intentions that determine how we, non-experts, manage to talk about elms and beeches with "elm" and "beech" explicitly before us every time we use those words, "the Meaning of 'Meaning'" would have been a power-snore.) Given that, the natural thing to do is to cash out the contents of our referential intentions dispositionally. The content of the relevant disposition is not hard to spell out. To see how this is done, start with a totally natural case of domain restriction for the use of a quantifier over individuals. Suppose Sally asserts "Every student was at the meeting". Feeling confused (or engaging in what passes for humor among philosophers), George askes "What?! Even those students not in residence?" An entirely natural thing for Sally to say here is "No; I meant every student in residence". (The example is from von Fintel and Gillies.) It is just implausible to say that Sally explicitly formulated to herself the restrictor "in residence" (or any of the many other restrictors she intends) before speaking. But she is right to claim that it is part of 'what she meant' all along. George's query helps her see this. The relevant disposition in the case of deliberators is of precisely the same kind. The information that is in the restricting body is given by what the speaker would recognize as in there, NOT, as Mark suggests, whatever she would recognize as relevant. There may be relevant info that a speaker has practically no way of knowing before action becomes necessary, as in the dramatic reenactment case. We can see that we don't think such info is in the base-restricting body from seeing what appropriate hindsight evaluations would be, e.g. "that's a shame" not "I disagree". The challenge here for anyone who would reject this natural story is to tell a more plausible one without at the same time rejecting much of philosophers' and linguists' best understanding of how language works. That's a quick, somewhat oversimplified summary of my view on the role referential intentions play and how I think they should be cashed out dispositionally. I've got a whole paper on understanding referential intentions as dispositions, called "Empirical Metaphysics". (It's a reply of sorts to the Jackson/Chalmers semantic program.) It's in one of the BSPC Phil Studies volumes (and also on my webpage, link above). I've also got a discussion of this in my manuscript on epistemic modals, also on my webpage, for those interested in a more detailed formulation.
Toggle Commented Jun 11, 2009 on Flexible Contextualism about 'Ought's at PEA Soup
Thanks! I'm looking forward to being a part of this thing you've got going on here.
Toggle Commented May 26, 2009 on Welcome, Janice Dowell at PEA Soup