A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Sunday, 23 November 2014

My philosophical views

Having an hour to spare and nothing better to do, I've decided to write down my current answers to the questions on the PhilPapers survey of philosophers' views. First, a couple of notes and caveats:

  • At first, I wasn't going to look at any (potentially new-to-me) arguments for the positions while doing this. However, upon reflection it seems strange to reject a chance to be motivated to learn.
  • One of the options on the original survey was "insufficiently familiar with the area." This really ought to be my default answer - I am, after all, a mere undergraduate student - but where would be the fun in that. Instead, for any given issue you should assume that I am probably not as familiar with the issue as I ought to be.
A Priori knowledge: yes or no?
Umm... lean no, maybe? I lean towards the view that logic, maths etc are constructed rather than discovered, and given that they are supposed to be the paradigm cases of a priori knowledge, I guess that places me in the No category.

Abstract objects: Platonism or nominalism?
Is this asking whether I believe that there are no abstract objects, or which of these positions I lean towards on a greater number of subjects? I'm not willing to completely rule out abstract objects (fictional objects in particular strike me as things which might exist but be abstract) but I don't believe in the existence of numbers, of propositions, or of many of the other abstract objects which have been postulated to exist. Put me down as leaning towards nominalism.

Aesthetic value: objective or subjective?
I have actually put serious effort into trying to work out why anyone might think that aesthetic value is objective, and the closest I've seen to an argument is SEP's mention of the fact that "people tend to agree about which things are beautiful." Sigh. Accept subjective.

Analytic-synthetic distinction: yes or no?
I don't believe in it, the only question is whether I go down as Lean No or Accept No. Quine was very convincing... go on, put me down as Accept No.

Epistemic justification: Internalism or Externalism?
I can never remember which is which. Assuming I correctly understand the issue, one of them is the view that knowledge-seeking has intrinsic value, the other is that we should seek knowledge because it is useful to us. Yudkowsky put this very nicely in the Sequences, saying that seeking knowledge out of curiosity has a certain purity to it, but the advantage of seeking knowledge because it is useful is that it creates an external criterion by which to measure our success. Accept whichever one it is which says we should seek knowledge because it is useful.

External world: idealism, skepticism, or non-sceptical realism?
Accept non-sceptical realism. You can't achieve absolute certainty that you aren't being deceived by a demon, but (a) there is no reason to believe you are either and (b) in any case, suppose you were. You don't know anything about what the demon wants, so there's no particular reason to change the way you act.

Free-will: compatabilism, libertarianism, or no free will?
I'm fairly well convinced that if determinism is true, then (a) people cannot act differently than they do but (b) they are still morally responsible for their actions. I believe this makes me a compatibilist, although it strikes me as a bit weird that this is counted as believing in free will rather than denying that free will is necessary for moral responsibility.

God: theism or atheism?
Damn, no option for deism. Lean deism if that's acceptable, otherwise I place higher probability mass in atheism than in any of the "revealed religions".

Knowledge: empiricism or rationalism?
Given that I deny a priori knowledge, it would be rather odd if I were to say rationalism. (At least, it appears that way; perhaps this is one of the many things on which I shall come to be corrected.) Accept empiricism.

Knowledge claims: contextualism, relativism, or invariantism?
No familiarity with the subject area.

Laws of nature: Humean or non-Humean?
Accept Humean.

Logic: classical or non-classical?
This is an interesting one. As said above, I lean towards the view that logics are constructed rather than discovered, and that different logics may be appropriate for different purposes. The philosophical justification for intuitionistic logic is something I find very appealing, so let's say Lean non-classical.

Mental content: internalism or externalism?
No familiarity with the subject area.

Meta-ethics: moral realism or moral anti-realism?
I lean towards constructivism. I believe this makes me a moral realist, although that's a bit weird since I started working out my metaethics by explicitly assuming there were no genuine moral facts floating around.

Metaphilosophy: naturalism or non-naturalism?
Is the question "Which is it more fruitful for us to assume as a default?" or "Which do I beliee is actually true?" Accept naturalism on the first, lean non-naturalism on the second.

Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism?
Next to no familiarity with the subject area.

Moral judgement: cognitivism or non-cognitivism?
I looked at this at some point, but I can't remember much of what it was about.

Moral motivation: internalism or externalism?
Is this related to the amoralist's challenge? I've been thinking about that for ages, and still don't have a satisfactory answer despite reformulating my metaethics at least partially in an attempt to produce an answer to this question.

Newcomb's problem: one box or two boxes?
Accept one box. Although even if I were the type of person who would two-box, would I go around telling people that?

Normative ethics: deontology, consequentialism, or virtue ethics?
Virtue ethics, subject to deontological constraints, and with the choice of virtues justified on pluralist-consequentialist grounds. Yes, really.

Perceptual experience: disjunctivism, qualia theory, representationalism, or sense-datum theory?
When I studied this in first year, it seemed like a slam-dunk for sense-datum theory. However, given that (a) that was before I had read The Sequences, (b) I can't even remember what the first two of these were or if they were even mentioned, and (c) I have rejected almost every other view I picked up on that course (belief in the a priori, epistemological foundationalism, free-will libertarianism, near-universal scepticism... I must just about hold to a sensitivity condition regarding knowledge, so not quite everything), I'm inclined to take that past belief with rather a lot of salt.

Personal identity: biological view, psychological view, or further-fact view?
I don't hold to a biological view, but I' not greatly satisfied by the leading psychological accounts (though if I had to choose one, I would go with Schechtman's). I don't even know what the further-fact view is, and looking at the relevant SEP and Wikipedia articles suggests that either I'm misunderstanding the question, or that there is something odd about it. I was reading section 3 of Reasons and Persons, but my Kindle has gone missing.

Politics: communitarianism, egalitarianism, or libertarianism?
Accept libertarianism. Have you read my blog?

Proper names: Fregean, or Millian?
I prefer the Millian view, and I believe that Nathan Salmon's discussion of "guises" solves most of the problems for it; that said, I need to do more reading, so put me down as merely leaning Millian.

Science: scientific realism or scientific anti-realism?
Scientific realism. Because, you know. Duh.

Teletransporter (new material): survival or death?
Can I suggest the answer is somewhat subjective? Personally I would regard it as survival, but I'm very open towards difference of intuitions and I think that the disagreement is more to do with people having different values than to do with some (or all) people being wrong about an actual fact in the world.

Time: A-theory or B-theory?
B-theory is the one which holds all times to be equally real, and suggests that we move through time rather than time itself moving, right? Accept that one.

Trolley problem (five straight ahead, one on side track, turn requires switching, what ought one do?) 
switch or don't switch?
I would lean towards switching. I'm not entirely comfortable with it, but David Friedman's variation on Fat Man (in which both the Fat Man and yourself are required to does a fair job of convincing me that we should probably be willing not only to turn the trolley, but to push the fat man in its way.

Truth: correspondence, deflationary, or epistemic?
I read The Simple Truth and it sounded sensible. Then again, I haven't done a great deal of engagement with the views other than correspondence - certainly I could not explain what they are - so I'll have to just say I have insufficient engagement with the subject area.

Zombies: inconceivable, conceivable but not metaphysically possible, or metaphysically possible?
Again, especially insufficiently familiar, but leaning towards one of the not-metaphysically-possible positions.

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