Friday, November 27, 2009

Werewolf to meet koalas, kiwis

In three days, I'll be flying out to Australia to give a bunch of talks! There are two full-length papers I'm presenting, both of which have annoying rhymes in their titles. There's also a short paper I'll be presenting at the New Zealand AAP conference, which has its own absurd title. If you're interested in knowing where I'll be, here's the schedule:

December 1 - Australian National University - The Gap Between Thought and Ought
December 3 - University of Waikato - The Trouble With Double Effect
December 7-10 - New Zealand AAP - How Jenny and the cannibal desire Orlando Bloom
December 14 - University of Sydney - The Gap Between Thought and Ought
December 15 - Macquarie University - The Trouble With Double Effect
December 16 - University of New South Wales - The Trouble With Double Effect
December 17 - University of Western Australia - The Trouble With Double Effect
(Update: there was a Jan. 4 talk in NZ, but that probably won't happen.)

I'll be spending Christmas with colleague Ben Blumson in Brisbane. Apart from that, late December and early January are open, and I'll probably be wandering around New Zealand.

If you're curious what all these talks are about, here are some abstracts.

The Gap Between Thought and Ought
According to Nishi Shah and David Velleman, it is a conceptual truth about belief that it is governed by a norm of truth. They claim that their view helps to explain the difference between imagination and belief, and explains why the deliberative question "whether to believe that p?" inevitably gives way to "whether p?" They call this phenomenon "transparency." I argue that it is merely a synthetic truth about belief that it is correct if and only if true. First, their view does little to help us distinguish believing from imagining. Second, when people reject the norm of truth for belief, we regard them as substantively mistaken rather than incoherent. Third, we can give better explanations of transparency without regarding the concept of belief as having any normative content.

The Trouble With Double Effect
According to the Doctrine of Double Effect, it is worse to intend something harmful as a means to a good end than to intend the good end while foreseeing that it will cause harm. For example, it is worse to kill one person as a means to save five lives than it is to save the five in a way that then kills the one. I will argue that belief in Double Effect is produced by systematically misleading psychological processes. Intended harms seem worse because we imagine them more vividly than merely foreseen harms, resulting in more intense emotional responses. This is not a reliable way of forming true beliefs about which option is better. I will discuss recent experimental results from psychology and neuroscience that support this explanation and this criticism of Double Effect.

How Jenny and the cannibal desire Orlando Bloom
Michelle Montague argues that propositionalism, the view that all of our intentional attitudes are propositional attitudes, fails in the case of liking. I first discuss two advantages of propositionalism in the case of desire. Propositionalism correctly identifies the cases in which we regard two agents as desiring the same thing, and it also allows desire to do the explanatory work that it is supposed to. I then extend these arguments to propositionalism about liking. I conclude by considering ways for objectualists to defend their view in light of these arguments.


Michael Drake said...

Might not the comparative emotional intensity of intended harms reflect an evaluative asymmetry that makes belief in double effect true?

Neil Sinhababu said...

Well, I'm arguing that the asymmetry comes from the same psychological mechanism as discounting the future. So those things rise and fall together. But if you want to defend double effect and claim that we correctly evaluate things when we discount the future, be my guest, you deontologist wanton you...

Michael Drake said...

I can handle being called a wanton. But you will take the "deontologist" slur back.

breakerslion said...

Identificaion empathy. Nothing more, I think. First come, first served.