Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Desire-Belief Account Of Intention Explains Everything

That's the new paper I've uploaded. I'll be submitting it somewhere by the end of the month, just in case some folks I sent it to want give me feedback before then.

I'm looking at a bunch of the things that the desire-belief view of intention supposedly can't explain -- for example, our tendency to rise in confidence that we're φing when we intentionally φ, our ability to choose which of several reasons we act on, and the stuff Michael Bratman describes in his 1987 book mostly dealing with the ability of intentions to explain deliberative phenomena. I argue that the view in fact explains all this stuff, often better than opposing views, because it can tell you why these phenomena obtain and say something about why, in some cases, they don't.

The title is kind of big and in-your-face because I got really annoyed with how casually the desire-belief view gets dismissed for supposed explanatory inadequacy. People didn't think seriously about functional properties of desire other than its motivational effects (and sometimes not even those) when dismissing it. My friend John Maier told me when I was giving a talk on something else at ANU in December that nobody accepted the view anymore. This got me really motivated and I gave talks at KCL and Tufts and Illinois and UChicago and Illinois State defending it this summer. If you're interested in intention, have a look and tell me how well I did!

Monday, August 09, 2010

The regress argument against understanding philosophers

Via Brian Leiter. The argument proceeds from the premise that to understand any philosopher, you have to understand the philosophers who influenced him/her. This pushes you back down the history of philosophy until there's nothing you can write a good dissertation on after Aristotle. (People in well-funded doctoral programs might be able to make it up to Epicurus.)

Obviously things aren't that bad. The big point to be made here is that it's impossible to produce work that comes from a perfect knowledge of everything. You pick the things you're going to be really good on, and you're going to be mediocre at some other stuff. Some of us are going to know Montaigne and we'll be able to understand what Nietzsche is saying about him, and what that means about Nietzsche. Others are going to know metaethics and we'll be able to characterize Nietzsche's metaethical position in more precise terms. Maybe imperfect knowledge of the areas we're not expert in will impair our efforts. That's why we talk to each other.

Also: I admire philosophers who do interdisciplinary work that engages with the humanities and social sciences. There's lots of bad philosophy out there, and the world seriously needs philosophers who have the intellectual ability, patience, and academic social skills to help people there see that their (often very worthwhile) projects shouldn't be shaped by bad theories.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Video up soon

I just did a diavlog (I think that's what we're calling it) on hedonism about value with fellow hedonist Ben Bradley of Syracuse. It went really well, and I look forward to putting it up here.