’Tensions

Does anyone have the original publication details for David Lewis’s paper “’Tensions”? I know it was published in Semantics and Philosophy, a collection edited by Munitz and Unger. But I don’t know its page numbers.

I’m trying to put together a comprehensive Lewis bibliography for something I’m working on, but I’m a little stuck on this paper.

Defending Causal Decision Theory

Late last year I wrote up a small note replying to Andy Egan’s paper Some Counterexamples to Causal Decision Theory (PDF). I was hoping to revise it a little and then post it, but I haven’t had the chance to do the revisions (and fill in the references), but it looks interesting enough that it might be worth having up here. Without further ado…

Defending Causal Decision Theory

The core argument is that if Andy is right about what modifications are needed to causal decision theory, then we end up saying bizarre things about cases where there are three choices available. I think it’s less costly to simply keep causal decision theory than to say those bizarre things, though this is a bit of a judgment call.

Diachronic Dutch Books

A diachronic Dutch Book argument uses the fact that if you engage in a certain cognitive process, then there is a series of bets across different times that you will each find acceptable, but whose net consequence is that you lose money in every possibility. For instance, say that your current credence in p is 0.5, but you plan to have your credence in p tomorrow be 0.8. Now consider a bet that pays $1 if p, and nothing otherwise, and assume the marginal utility of money is constant enough. You’ll happily sell such a bet for 60 cents today. And you’ll happily buy it back tomorrow for 70 cents. So you’ll have lost 10 cents, whether the bet pays out or not. That’s bad, so you shouldn’t have arbitrary, and planned, credal jumps like that. A generalisation of this argument shows that any planned updating strategy that is not conditionalisation leads to sure losses, and, it is concluded from that, is bad.

But there’s something very odd about the argument here. There’s nothing wrong per se with a trading strategy that leads to a sure nominal loss. If there was, there would be something wrong with ever borrowing money at a positive interest rate. In the example above, you do end up with 10 cents less than you start with. But you also have the use of 60 cents for a day. Now 17% per day is probably a high price to pay for the use of that money. But we think having money to use is worth something. A non-zero liquidity preference is not irrational.

So what, exactly, is worse about the trading strategy the non-conditionaliser uses, and which leads to sure nominal loss than the trading strategy someone uses when they borrow money at a positive interest rate?

Part of the answer has to do with expected inflation, but presumably not all of it. Some people borrow money at what they take to be a positive real interest rate. And that can be, in some circumstances, rational.

Perhaps there is a simple explanation here, but it seems there is a very large argumentative gap in Diachronic Dutch Book arguments that isn’t there in Synchronic Dutch Book arguments.

Philosophers’ Annual

Over at Certain Doubts, they have a thread going where people are nominating papers in epistemology for the Philosophers’ Annual. I’m not actually an official nominator for the Annual, but I know some nominators read this site, so I thought we’d have a similar thread here.

What I’m particularly interested in are papers that relate to any of the Arche projects that are currently underway. These are

What do you think are the best papers on any of these topics to have come out in the last 12 months? Bonus points for papers that are on several of these topics. (A great paper on why we need, for methdological reasons, to take people to have non-evidential warrant for accepting the existence of unarticulated constituents would be perfect, especially if it could somehow work in the foundations project.)

Links

  • There are two conferences upcoming in Edinburgh in early July, one on The Metaphysics of Consciousness and a grad conference on The Metaphysics of Mind. Students who are going to be in eastern Scotland for the Arche Summer School might be particularly interested in these conferences.
  • There is a new group blog for metaphysics, called Matters of Substance, that looks worth bookmarking/subscribing to.
  • As you may have noticed, the new Philosophical Gourmet Report is out. As usual, I would quibble somewhat with how my department is rated. (We’re only group 3 in philosophy of physics?!) But I think the following is a pretty good guide to how broad Rutgers is. I think people often overlook, for instance, how strong Rutgers is in central areas of history of philosophy.

Rutgers Specialty Rankings
Philosophy of Language: Group 1 (1) (mean of 5.0)
Epistemology: Group 1 (1-2) (mean of 5.0)
Philosophy of Cognitive Science: Group 1 (1) (mean of 4.5)
Philosophy of Mind: Group 1 (1-3) (mean of 4.5)

Metaphysics: Group 2 (2-4) (mean of 4.5)
Early Modern Philosophy: 17th-Century: Group 2 (2-9) (mean of 4.0)
General Philosophy of Science: Group 2 (2-11) (mean of 4.0)
Applied Ethics: Group 2 (3-7) (mean of 4.0)
Philosophy of Art: Group 2 (4-16) (mean of 4.0)

Ethics: Group 3 (6-12) (mean of 4.0)
Decision, Rational Choice & Game Theory: Group 3 (5-9) (mean of 3.5)
Philosophy of Law : Group 3 (6-13) (mean of 3.5)
Philosophy of Physics: Group 3 (6-13) (mean of 3.5)
Philosophy of Social Science: Group 3 (6-13) (mean of 3.5)
Political Philosophy: Group 3 (10-22) (mean of 3.5)

Ancient Philosophy: Group 4 (8-12) (mean of 3.5)
Early Modern Philosophy: 18th-Century: Group 4 (11-33) (mean of 3.0)
Metaethics: Group 4 (16-35) (mean of 3.0)

Philosophical Logic: Group 5 (22-50) (mean of 3.0)

Assertion

Wow, Geach is great, isn’t he? I’ve just been reading through “Assertion” (Phil Review, vol. 74, no, 4 (Oct 1965)) and my favourite one-liners include:

  • I do not think there is anything in this.
  • this is just an idiotism of idiom
  • ..and this is what Professor Antony Flew has aptly called a conventionalist sulk
I wonder if I can manage to use all of these in my next question session? (Though maybe they won’t buy me dinner if I do.)

Fires

When we were in Melbourne over Christmas, Ishani and I went to Marysville for a couple of days. We wanted to get out of the city for a little, and spend a little time in the bush and in a pretty country town. It was very pleasant there, especially staying at Rendezvous Cottages, which was incredibly pretty. It was especially nice to see so many birds flying around happily – not least because they were so well fed by the hosts at Rendezvous.

And now it is, as far as we can tell, all gone. There are a handful of buildings, at best, standing in the town of Marysville. On the main street (which I think doesn’t quite include Rendezvous, though the terminology is ambiguous) apparently the only building standing is, of all things, the bakery. At least 12 people, in a very small town, have died.

There’s very little we can do from a distance to help, but there are several ways to contribute financially to the immediate aid, and to reconstruction. The Australian Red Cross seems to be the primary donation source. But you might also want to support Wildlife Victoria, which is looking after a lot of displaced and distressed animals. John Quiggin is running one of his many successful blog-based fundraising appeals, and you can donate through that if you want to help show how much blog readers help out in times of need.

Three More Notes

Quick posts from around the web.

  • Brian Leiter has a thread about hot topics in metaphysics. For a while there metaphysics seemed to be all mereology/meta-ontology, all the time, with a special focus on meta-ontological questions about mereology. I think (and hope) that’s not really a fair characterisation of what’s going on now, so head over to Leiter’s and tell us all what’s been happening.
  • A new edition of Nous is now out featuring articles by Graham Oppy, Yuri Cath, and Jeremy Fantl and Matthew McGrath, among others.
  • Terry Tao notes a worrying research cut in a proposed amendment to the stimulus bill. I have no idea what’s happening throughout the stimulus debates, but it would be a worry if the horse trading cost us a lot of NSF funding.

Stuff ‘n’ Things

A few snippets from around the webs.

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What else is happening around the philosophy parts of the internet?