Latest Edition of Analysis

I used to read Analysis more or less from cover-to-cover when it came out. For various reasons I’ve stopped doing that, largely because it fell down the priority list than because it seemed like a bad idea. Looking at the latest issue (contents below fold), it seems I might want to return to my old habits. I wish the journal wasn’t so male-dominated, but otherwise it is one of the most valuable philosophy journals we have.

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As many of you will know, Ishani and I were offered positions at Rutgers a while ago. And after a somewhat long negotiating period, we’ve decided to accept them. So we’ll be starting at Rutgers in January 2008.

Part of the reason this was a long negotiation was that Cornell is a pretty good place to work too (to say the least). If you’re reading this blog you probably know how good the faculty are, and the students are really superb. (As many of you will find out as they storm the job market over the next few years.) So I wasn’t exactly feeling a need to leave.

But still, we’re excited about moving to Rutgers. It’s a department that is strong, both at faculty and grad student level, in so many different areas. Having philosophy of language colleagues like Jeff King, Ernie Lepore and Jason Stanley will be a blast. And Rutgers is still the place to be for epistemology. And I’m looking forward to being reunited with former colleagues like Ernie Sosa and Dean Zimmerman. And the NYC/NJ area is home to an insane percentage of the philosophers I’ve learned the most from, and am continuing to learn from. So I’ve both got a lot to look forward to.

I could write a long post on the horse race aspects of this move. (Scarlet Knights trade Arntzenius and Sider for King, Lin, Maitra and Weatherson; Big Red trades Irwin and … you get the idea.) But as fun as that would be, perhaps it is best left for another day.

Ishani and I have each been in upstate NY for five years, so leaving is a big deal. There’s a lot to like about the area, both philosophically and geographically. I think the departments in this area have some very underrated philosophers, many of whom I’ve gotten to know well over the five years here. So as excited as we are about the new jobs, we’ll miss a lot of people here as well.

Do You Ever Get the Feeling that Everybody’s Talking About “You”?

Here’s a paper, largely about “you”, in which I say stuff that sounds quite a bit like stuff Brian and Kenny say below. It’s a little different, though, and I take longer to say it. Plus I also talk about answering machines and oatmeal.

Billboards, Bombs, and Shotgun Weddings

For the reasons offered in Finlay (comment on previous post), please don’t quote or cite without (ridiculously easy to obtain) permission.

And here’s a very cool paper by Josh Parsons with another take on the same sort of phenomenon, though less about “you” and more about “now”:

Assessment-Contextual Indexicals

Josh doesn’t seem to have any “don’t quote or cite” warning on his page, but it’d probably be nice to ask him anyway if you’re going to.

Conditionals Update

When I posted my conditionals and indexical relativism paper the othe week, I mentioned that part of the motivation for the view came from Tamina Stephenson’s work. Along these lines, I have two updates to report. First, she has a new version of the paper where PROJ is introduced.

Judge Dependence, Epistemic Modals, and Predicates of Personal Taste

Second, she has a handout from a talk on conditionals and relativism. Happily, it is a slightly different version of relativism to mine. (Diversity is always a philosophic boon!) She takes the propositions expressed by conditionals to be sets of world-judge pairs, and uses this to explain what’s going on in Gibbardian standoff. I think these propositions are (or determine) sets of possible worlds, and I’m not sure there is anything in Gibbardian standoffs that our semantics needs to explain.

Anyway, both links are highly recommended.

Citation Practices

In a recent post about citing papers on the web, Ross Cameron drew the following conclusion.

I’m tempted to think that if you put a paper up on the web, that’s to put it in the public domain, and it’s no more appropriate to place a citation restriction on such a paper than it is on a paper published in a print journal. I’m even tempted to think that conference presentations can be freely cited; i.e.that I shouldn’t have to seek Xs permission to refer in one of my papers to the presentation X gave.

The particular issue here is what to do about papers that the author posts and says at the top “Please don’t quote or cite”. (You occasionally see ‘don’t circulate’ as well, which is a little odd.) I’m not sure how common these notes are outside philosophy, but they are pretty common on philosophy papers posted on people’s websites. Now on the one hand, there is something to be said for following people’s requests like this.

On the other hand, as Ross notes, the requests can lead to annoying situation. One kind of case is where the reader notices an important generalisation of the paper’s argument. Another case is where the conclusion of the paper supplies the missing premise in an interesting argument the reader is developing. Either way, the reader is in a bit of a bind.

I think the main thing to say about these situations is that writers shouldn’t put such requests on their papers.

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Praising the Greats

Here is one way to run the New Evil Demon argument against externalist theories of justification. Let S be a normal person, with a justified belief that p, and S* her brain-in-vat twin.

1. If S’s belief that p is justified, then S*‘s belief that p is justified
2. If S*‘s belief that p is justified, then externalism is false.
C. So externalism is false.

Now how might we motivate premise 1? One way is by something like the following argument.

1. The same reactive attitudes are appropriate towards S and S*‘s doxastic states.
2. Whether a belief is justified supervenes on the reactive attitudes that are appropriate towards it.
C. So if S’s belief that p is justified, then S*‘s belief that p is justified

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You Might be a Relativist If…

At the end of my Conditionals and Indexical Relativism paper, there is a throw-away reference to the possibility that indexical relativism might be the right theory for various pronouns in modern language. ‘Modern language’ only because for traditional (i.e. spoken) languages contextualism seems to capture all the data. This post is a start on making that a bit more plausible.

I’m interested in uses of ‘you’ in written work where the writer has no way of knowing how broad the audience is. One notable feature of such uses is that it is very common to use epistemic modals scoping over the pronoun, so you often see things like “You might”, as e.g. here, or “You probably”, as, e.g. here. I’m particularly interested in the latter uses. What, you’re probably thinking right now, could they mean?

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Privacy and Slippery Slopes

Ever since Google’s street view service was debuted there have been many discussions over its privacy implications. I’ve found most of these fairly overblown, but this morning I started to get a better sense of what some of the concerns might be about. Writing on the SMH’s news blog, Matthew Moore writes approvingly,

Mr McKinnon reckons you can hardly have a reasonable expectation of privacy on a public street when every second person has a video camera or mobile phone and when Google is now using street-level maps with images of real people who have no idea they have been photographed.

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Congratulations Language Log

This is a nice story. The latest issue of Southwest Airlines’ inflight magazine features some recommended diversions. They include the usual summer books, movies and music, and a plug for Language Log as blog reading. Academic blogs have come a long way if they’re being recommended in inflight magazines. Now we only have to get them to be promoting other academic blogs the same way.

I’ve been seeing a lot of references to Language Log around the web recently, particularly to their prescriptivist-bashing posts. I particularly liked this attack on the alleged rules for using less and fewer, complete with examples from King Alfred’s Latin translations. It’s an example of how academic blogs can make an impact on public life not by dumbing down their work, or by stretching to find alleged applications, but simply by setting out their work in a clear and accessible way. Or, to bring things back to a favourite theme of mine, of why academics should get credit for successful blogs not necessarily as examples of research, but as examples of service to the community. Now giving people diversions alongside summer blockbusters isn’t quite the same kind of service as solving their medical or social problems, but it is a service, and a praiseworthy one.