Friday, November 20, 2015

Is this trans girl the 20th most powerful person in Vancouver?

This week Vancouver Magazine published its list of the 50 most powerful people in Vancouver for 2015. Number 20 this year is Tru Wilson, a 12-year-old trans girl whose family filed a successful human rights complaint against her school, which had been refusing to treat her as a girl. The media by and large is treating Wilson's spot on the list as a feel-good human rights story; see for example the positive profile in The Province this week. From what I can tell, Wilson is an awesome person, and I'm 100% behind trans rights, but I do not think her placement on this list is a feel-good story. I think it was a mistake.

I'm going to give Vancouver Magazine the benefit of the doubt and assume that their intentions were great; they saw the unfair discrimination against this child, and wanted to celebrate her for overcoming it, and to highlight her eloquent speech on the topic. But calling her one of the most powerful people in Vancouver is the wrong way to do this. Wilson stood up to her school district and insisted on being treated with dignity, and that is awesome. But it doesn't mean she's one of the most powerful people in town; on the contrary, her bravery was necessary because of the high degree to which trans people are marginalized. By all means, put her on a list of 'people to celebrate', or 'people who achieved something important', or 'up-and-comers to keep an eye on'; putting her alongside CEOs, governmental leaders, and the chief of police as one of the 'most powerful' people wrongly suggests she won't have to fight harder than most of us do just to be treated with basic respect.

I don't think the mistake is harmless; it feeds into a reactionary bogeyman. A favourite trope of the old guard is the myth of marginalized people as wielding tremendous power—"you'd better toe the line or the trans activists will come for you!" This kind of fear is very dangerous. I'm all for celebrating trans successes, but attributing power to trans activists isn't the way to do it.

Monday, October 19, 2015

How to get Thrifty to pay me the money they owe me (update Nov 9, Jan 10, Feb 10, Aug 20, Oct 17, Nov 8)

I've been trying for almost three months now to recover $706.39 USD I'm owed by Thrifty Car Rentals. So far all my attempts to communicate have been ignored. A few people have seen me mention this on social media and asked me what it's all about; I thought it'd be helpful to write it up here. I'm also now in a position of seeking advice on how to escalate the situation. Is there a consumer advocacy group to which I can report them? Does one sue for this kind of amount of money?

On July 29, 2015, I flew to San Francisco and attempted to collect my pre-paid weekend car rental. (I booked and payed for the rental via 26,250 United Mileage Plus miles—roughly the cost of a round-trip economy-class ticket.)

After two hours in line (!) I was told that there were no cars available; I was given a form to fill out and asked to rent from another company. I was assured at the time that the cost would be reimbursed within three weeks. So I rented from National, paying $706.39 for a four-day compact rental—the same as I'd already payed Thrifty for. I promptly submitted Thrifty's Offsell Certificate form and my National receipts via post and waited. The allotted weeks passed; nothing happened. I waited three more weeks; nothing happened.

On September 30, I submitted another message via their customer service links on their website, reminding them of their obligations. This too was ignored.

If for some reason you care to see what I sent Thrifty, here is my copy of the documents in question.

Back in July, I'd been most upset about the lack of professionalism at the rental counter, and making me wait two hours just to be told to go to another counter. But the fact that they won't return my letters or emails about the $706.39 I am owed is, I think it's fair to say, even worse. If anyone has any suggestions for how to go about recovering this money, I'd be grateful to hear them.


Update (Nov 9): Shortly after this blog post, Thrifty's twitter account DM'd me and put me in touch with a customer service representative via email. One Kevin Stovall wrote to me on Oct 21. This email did not acknowledge that I should have received payment months ago or explain why I hadn't; instead, it simply told me to expect a check for $554.49. I don't know where that number came from, and told him so. He seemed to think it represented the difference between the promised rate and what I ended up paying. I replied:

Yes. But the 'difference' in this instance is the full value, as I already paid Thrifty for the rental via miles. I was expecting to pay $0 additional for the rental, and I paid $706.39 instead. So the difference is $706.39. I don't know where you're getting another number. That $554.49 would make sense if our agreement had been that I would pay Thrifty $151.90 on top of my miles. But that was never the agreement.
This is something I confirmed with the agent at the desk; it is also common sense. Because Thrifty was unable to provide the car I'd reserved and already paid for, I paid $706.39 more than I'd planned to, out of pocket. 
I note that my mileage payment has not been reimbursed. If you wish to reimburse me $554.49 and also refund me the 26,250 United Mileage Plus miles that I spent, I would consider that acceptable.
This exchange all occurred on Oct 21. He never replied to the quoted email; I note also that I still haven't received any payment whatsoever.

Update (Jan 10): I received a cheque for some of the money owed, with no explanation for why I didn't get all of it. Thrift has reimbursed me $554.49, but still owes me $151.90 (or a miles reimbursement). They have ignored all of my emails since the last update. I'm writing some more now. Also I'd like to clarify that the numbers quoted above are all in US Dollars. Thrifty owed me about $1,000 CAD for months, and didn't give me a dime until I started calling them out publicly.


Update (Feb 10): All my emails still go unanswered. Thrifty's twitter team noticed me after my last update, and asked for my information again. Nothing happened. They owe me $151.90 USD or 26,250 United miles. Over six months now.


Update (Aug 20): Well, the one-year anniversary of my being owed money has come and gone. The good news is, Thrifty has now admitted that I am correct, and that they still owe me $151.90! A customer service representative emailed me thus: "After further investigating your concern we have concluded that you were correct. Please accept my sincere apologies for miscalculating your refund. I have started the check process and will submit it to our accounting department. You check will be in the amount of $151.90, please allow 10-14 business to receive your check." The bad news is, I received this email on Feb 22, and now, six months later, I still have no check.


Update (Oct 17): I am still waiting. Total radio silence. Emails are being ignored. They admitted in February that yes, they owe me $151.90 USD, and that I should expect a check soon. But it hasn't come, and they're ignoring all my follow-up emails. Time for another round of social media complaining, I think. If anyone has any other ideas for what might work, I'd be interested to hear.


Update (Nov 8): Social media noticed me again and asked for some details, which I provided. Then no further information or communication. And then I got a check in the mail!
So I guess this is finally over.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Evidence for presuppositions

One of the things evidential challenges do is to question what grounds we have for our antecedent beliefs. Indeed, that's one of the main things they do. Maybe it's common knowledge that we all believe that p, but we haven't thought much about why we all believe that p. This is just the sort of case where it might make sense to stop and wonder whether p—which is mutually recognized to be something we believe—is actually supported by our evidence.

I think that this observation undermines a claim Michael Blome-Tillmann makes in his book Knowledge & Presuppositions. The key idea there, as in his earlier paper of the same title, is to embrace a Lewisian from of contextualism about 'knows', but where Lewis's 'Rule of Actuality' is replaced by a 'Rule of Presupposition'—that which is consistent with the presuppositions in a conversation is not properly ignored. Ad Michael characterizes conversational presuppositions in terms of dispositions reflective of mutual belief.

Michael considers (p. 99) this dialogue:

A: I know that animal is a zebra.
B: How do you know that it isn't a mule cleverly painted to look like a zebra?
A: Hmm, for all I know it is a painted mule. So I was wrong. I didn't know that it is a zebra after all.

In a strategy unlike the canonical one (supposing that final A's self-attribution of error is mistaken), Michael thinks that A's final response is wholly correct, and that the initial utterance is false. He thinks that the painted mule hypothesis is relevant, even at the start of the conversation. Here's why:
[B] does not pragmatically presuppose that the animals are not cleverly painted mules—neither before nor after asking her first question. Since B asks whether A can rule out that the animal is a cleverly painted mule, B is clearly not disposed to behave, in her use of language, as if she believed it to be common ground that the animal is not a cleverly painted mule. For if she were so disposed, she would certainly not have asked that very question. (100)
This seems to me simply to be wrong, for the reason laid out in my opening paragraph. Asking whether p is ruled out by evidence seems to me wholly consistent with thinking it to be common ground that p.

(Although I think it's independent, this point points to the same conclusion, and has an argumentative similarity with, the one I press against Michael's view in this paper.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Certainty Norm of Assertion

In a well-known paper, Jason Stanley argues against the knowledge norm of assertion, in favour of a certainty norm of assertion. As Jason notices, knowledge-denying Moore-paradoxes like (1) aren't the only Moore-paradoxes in town; certainty-denying conjunctions like (2) seem similarly paradoxical:

  1. Jason works at Yale but I don't know that Jason works at Yale
  2. Jason works at Yale but it's not certain that Jason works at Yale

Jason thinks that knowledge doesn't entail certainty, and so a knowledge norm of assertion can't explain what's wrong with assertions of (2). Instead, he opts for a certainty norm of assertion, that's meant to explain both.

The argument I thought I remembered from the paper was that the certainty norm was strictly stronger than the knowledge norm. The certainty norm explains (2) in the obvious way (just like the knowledge norm explained (1)); and it explains (1) by invoking the entailment of knowledge by certainty. If I don't know that Jason works at Yale, it's not certain, so I can't assert the first conjunct. But today I read the paper again, and that's definitely not the argument. Certainty, in the sense Jason discusses, does not entail knowledge.

The relevant notion of certainty here is 'epistemic certainty', according to which 'one is certain of a proposition p if and only if one knows that p (or is in a position to know that p) on the basis of evidence that gives one the highest degree of justification for one's belief that p'. (p. 35) Since certainty does not entail knowledge, on Jason's view, it is not quite clear to me how a certainty norm explains the infelicity of (1). Of course one can't know both conjuncts in (1), but I don't see why why one couldn't have certainty in both conjuncts. Here is Jason's attempt to deal with the issue:
Consider the proposition that there are no large Jewish elephants in my bedroom. This may have been an epistemic certainty for me five minutes ago, even though I did not know that there were no large Jewish elephants in my bedroom. I did not know that there were no large Jewish elephants in my bedroom, because I did not believe it, and I did not believe it simply because it didn't occur to me ever to entertain that possibility. Nevertheless, in this case, if I had entertained the propsition that there are no large Jewish elephants in my bedroom, I would have known it. The reason this counterfactual is true is because it is an epistemic certainty for me that there are no large Jewish elephants in my bedroom. So the fact that a proposition is an epistemic certainty for a person does not entail that the person knows that proposition. If a proposition is an epistemic certainty for a person at a time, then it does follow that the person is in a *position to know* that proposition. Being in a position to know a proposition is to be disposed to acquire the knowledge that the proposition is true, when one entertains it on the right evidential basis. Since epistemic certainty entails possession of this dispositional property, utterances [like (1)] are odd. (p. 49)
The thought seems to be that if something is certain, then if one asserts it, one must know it. But it doesn't follow from his explanations of these notions that this must be so—couldn't something be asserted without being entertained on the right evidential basis? Suppose for instance that p is certain for me, but I don't know p because I am ignoring my overwhelming evidence for p, and basing my belief that p on some bad evidence. Couldn't it be, in this case, that it's also certain for me that I don't know p? I think it seems plausible that I might—my evidence, which, suppose, includes some sort of introspective access to the source of my belief—might overwhelmingly establish that I don't know that p. But if so, the certainty norm predicts that 'p but I don't know that p' should be assertable.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Assertability without Assertion

I think there are cases where one doesn't assert something, but one wouldn't be in violation of any norms of assertion if one did. Probably you can think of lots of cases like that. For instance, suppose that Helen is having a conversation about sloths and their habits. Suppose that she has whatever arbitarily high epistemic access you like with respect to the fact that urinate only once a week, but chooses not to mention this fact, preferring in this instance to listen to the other people speaking instead. If she had asserted it, this would have amounted to an expression of her knowledge or better (certainty, maybe), and it would have given knowledge to her interlocutors, who would have celebrated this fact as relevant and interesting. But she keeps it to herself instead.

I think this is a pretty mundane kind of case—it happens all the time. (There are other kinds of cases with the relevant feature too—imagine a case where one does the wrong thing by refraining from asserting. One may—indeed, ought—to assert, but doesn't.) But I also think it's a counterexample to Rachel McKinnon's 'Supportive Reasons Norm', which she suggests is the central norm governing assertion.

Here is the Supportive Reasons Norm (given on p. 52 of Rachel's recent assertion book):
One may assert that p only if
(i) One has supportive reasons for p,
(ii) The relevant conventional and pragmatic elements of the context are present, and
(iii) One asserts that p at least in part because the assertion that p satisfies (i) and (ii).
My case of Helen is a counterexample because Helen may assert that sloths urinate only once a week, but fails to satisfy condition (iii), since she doesn't make the relevant assertion at all, let alone for a particular reason. In general, that condition will ensure that the permissibility of the assertion entails that the assertion is made. Since it's not true we're only permitted to assert the things we do assert, I don't think condition (iii) is part of a proper characterization of what one may assert. (It is much easier to think something like it may have a role to play in a characterization of when a given assertion is a proper one. Perhaps that's what Rachel had in mind.)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

External Factors and Evidential Symmetry

I'm thinking about the relationship between factive reasons and internalism.

A certain gumball machine has two possible modes. In mode A, it delivers blue gumballs with 90% probability, and red gumballs with 10% probability; in mode B, those proportions are reversed. (The probability for each gumball is independent.) Every morning, a fair coin is flipped to determine in which mode it will remain for the duration of the day. Vibhuti knows all of this. She begins our story with an epistemic probability of .5 for proposition h.
h: the machine is in mode A.
Now two of Vibhuti's friends who have been to the gumball machine today come along. Tunc tells her that he bought a gumball, and it was blue. (This is evidence in favour of h.) Eric tells her that he bought a gumball, and it was red. (This is evidence against h.) Tunc and Eric are equally (and highly) honest and reliable (and Vibhuti knows this). The evidential situation looks entirely symmetric, so Vibhuti's evidential probability for h looks still to be .5.

But certain approaches to evidence might disrupt this apparent symmetry. Suppose it turns out that Eric is lying, but Tunc is telling the truth, and indeed, reporting something he knows. (We've stipulated that this is unlikely, but not that it's impossible.) The lie is skillful, and Vibhuti isn't suspicious; she very reasonably takes both of their assertions at face value. Let's also take on board the following epistemic assumptions (if only to see where they lead):

  1. Testimony almost always puts one in possession of knowledge of the fact that the testimony occurred.
  2. Testimony at least sometimes puts one in possession of knowledge of the fact testified.
  3. E=K.
(Note that I am not assuming a reductivist approach to testimony; there's no claim that the knowledge from 2 typically or ever is based on the knowledge from 1.)

Given these assumptions, it looks like we may not get Vibhuti's case as symmetrical after all. Although she has some evidence in favour of h and some against it, it isn't all symmetrical. For it looks like her relevant evidence is the following:
  • Tunc says he got a red one.
  • Tunc got a red one.
  • Eric says he got a blue one.
The first and third on this list look to be symmetrical for and against h. But the strongest item here counts unambiguously in favour of it. You might think that the second swamps the first in evidential relevance—that sort of seems right—if so, then we could just look at this list:

  • Tunc got a red one.
  • Eric says he got a blue one.
Here we have one piece of evidence in each direction, but the first item, which counts in favour of h, looks stronger than the second. So it looks like there's going to be some pressure against the idea that Vibhuti's evidential probability in h is .5; it seems like it should be higher than .5.

So how, if at all, could E=K (and really, the challenge applies to a broader range of views: anyone strict enough to demand true evidence, but lax enough to allow testimonial contents sometimes to be evidence) accommodate the apparent evidential symmetry in cases like this? I see four options.
  1. Deny that one can ever get the contents of testimony as evidence, because we don't really know the things we're told, even when we're told by people who know. (Skepticism about testimony.) This might be more palatable than it seems if accompanied with some kind of contextualism about both 'knows' and 'evidence'.
  2. Deny that one can ever get the contents of testimony as evidence, because not all knowledge is evidence—maybe only direct or basic knowledge counts as evidence. (E=BK)
  3. Deny that in particular cases like this one can get knowledge via testimony. If one friend is lying to you, then you're in a skeptical situation where testimony is unreliable. (But will this solution be general enough?)
  4. Admit everything I've said about what evidence Vibhuti has, but argue that, for purposes of evidential probability, the situation is symmetrical after all. (The relationship between evidence and evidential probability is complex; I'm really working with something of a 'black box' for the latter—must we suppose that the black box delivers the assymetrical verdict in a case like this?)
Maybe there are more, I'm not sure.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Philosophical Assertions

Chapter 9 of Sandy Goldberg's recent book Assertion argues, on the basis of peer disagreement in philosophy, that it characteristic of typical, apparently appropriate, philosophical discussions that they include many assertions of contents for which the speakers are not justified. This is part of a bigger case that the epistemic norms governing assertion do not always make for strong epistemic constraints.

I am not convinced that the cases of disagreement he's looking at are cases in which people are typically making out-right assertions of controversial contents. I am attracted to something like the idea he recognizes in this passage:
I have sometimes heard it said (in conversation) that there really are no straight (first-order) assertions of controversial matters in philosophy, only speculations and conditional (or otherwise hedged) claims. A characteristic claim in this vicinity is that philosophers do not flat-out assert their claims, but instead suggest them tentatively, or with something like a "we have some reason to think that" operator in front of them. (p. 247)
I would weaken this point slightly—perhaps philosophers do sometimes assert things that they can't justifiably believe because of considerations about peer disagreement, but hold that these assertions are inappropriate norm violations. If most of the time, including all of the times that are clearly appropriate, philosophers are doing something weaker than flat-out asserting, then his larger argument for a weaker assertion norm doesn't really get off the ground. (While it may be unacceptable to suppose that philosophy is absolutely full of unwarranted assertions; it seems to me not at all implausible to suppose that some philosophers sometimes make unwarranted assertions.) But I do think that philosophers often tend to exaggerate the strength with which philosophers tend to put forward their philosophical ideas.

In response to this move, Sandy writes the following in defence of 'PASD'—the claim that it is common for philosophers in cases of systematic peer disagreement to assert controversial claims. This is a continuation of the passage quoted above:
I agree that this is sometimes the case. But I find it dubious in the extreme to think that all cases of apparent assertions made in philosophy under conditions of systematic peer disagreement are like this. Surely there are some cases in which a philosopher continues to assert that p, despite the systematic p-relevant peer disagreement. (fn: Indeed, some philosophers have even conceded as much in their own case.) Here, two points of support can be made. First, it should be obvious to anyone who has participated in or observed philosophical practice that there are (some, and arguably many) occasions on which a claim is advanced under conditions of systematic peer disagreement without any explicit hedge or "there are reasons to think" operator in play. For this reason, if the hedging proposal is to work, it must postulate an implicit (linguistically unmarked) hedge or "there are reasons to think" operator in play in all such cases. But such a global postulation would appear to be fully theory-driven, and so ad hoc. What is more (and this is my second point), there are independent reasons to think that such a postulation is not warranted. In particular, the suggestion—that philosophical practice under conditions of systematic peer disagreement always involves hedged rather than straight assertion—appears to be belied by other aspects of our practice. Why the vehemence with which some (apparently first-order, categorical) philosophical claims are made, even under conditions of systematic peer disagreement? Why so much heat, if all we are doing is entering hedged claims? Why do we go to such great lengths to try to defend our claims in the face of challenge? Why not shrug off such challenges to our claim that p, with the remark that, after all, we were merely claiming that there are reasons supporting that p? Relatedly: why is it that the typical response to challenges is to try to defend the claim that p, not the (weaker) claim that there are reasons to believe that p? Finally, if all we are doing in philosophy is entering hedged claims, why is talk of our philosophical "commitments" so prevalent? Reflecting on this practice, I conclude that assertions are made in philosophy, even in the face of systematic peer disagreement. PASD is true.
I want to make three observations about this argument. First, for the reasons mentioned above, I think that Sandy is wrong to focus on the question of whether philosophers ever make assertions of controversial claims. For his argument to work, he needs this to be common enough that the verdict that such claims are unwarranted is undermining of philosophical practice. Second, he seems to be focused primarily on the idea that philosophers are asserting something weaker, like an existential claim about reasons; a more promising version of the idea seems to me that we are often making weaker commitments to categorical philosophical contents—that we're often speculating that p, for instance, rather than out-right asserting it. (Sandy recognizes that there is an important distinction here elsewhere in the book.)

Third, I think that when we really get down to what philosophers actually say and write, outright assertions of contentious claims are much rarer than we sometimes suppose. We very often use 'it seems to me that' etc. hedges. I think the passage I've just quoted from Sandy is reasonably representative in terms of philosophical force and style—but how often does it contain actual assertions of contentious claims? Let's look in detail:

  • I agree that this is sometimes the case. May or may not be an assertion, but if it is one, it's an uncontroversial one Sandy makes about himself.
  • But I find it dubious in the extreme to think that all cases of apparent assertions made in philosophy under conditions of systematic peer disagreement are like this. Ditto.
  • Surely there are some cases in which a philosopher continues to assert that p, despite the systematic p-relevant peer disagreement. To my ear, the 'surely' makes this an invitation to notice for oneself, not an outright assertion. (I can almost hear question-marks on 'surely' claims.) But if it is an assertion it's a very weak one, and not one I'd expect to see systematic disagreement about.
  • Indeed, some philosophers have even conceded as much in their own case. An assertion, but not a contentious one.
  • Here, two points of support can be made. Ditto.
  • First, it should be obvious to anyone who has participated in or observed philosophical practice that there are (some, and arguably many) occasions on which a claim is advanced under conditions of systematic peer disagreement without any explicit hedge or "there are reasons to think" operator in play. Plausibly an assertion, but not controversial.
  • For this reason, if the hedging proposal is to work, it must postulate an implicit (linguistically unmarked) hedge or "there are reasons to think" operator in play in all such cases. An assertion. If 'the hedging proposal' is the idea that philosophers never make assertions in these cases, it looks like an uncontroversial one; if it's the more general idea that one can avoid his argument by invoking hedging moves, I think it's an unwarranted assertion for the reasons mentioned above.
  • But such a global postulation would appear to be fully theory-driven, and so ad hoc. Exhibits the kind of hedges he's talking about.
  • What is more (and this is my second point), there are independent reasons to think that such a postulation is not warranted. Exhibits the kind of hedges he's talking about.
  • In particular, the suggestion—that philosophical practice under conditions of systematic peer disagreement always involves hedged rather than straight assertion—appears to be belied by other aspects of our practice. Exhibits the kind of hedges he's talking about.
  • Why the vehemence with which some (apparently first-order, categorical) philosophical claims are made, even under conditions of systematic peer disagreement? Why so much heat, if all we are doing is entering hedged claims? Why do we go to such great lengths to try to defend our claims in the face of challenge? Why not shrug off such challenges to our claim that p, with the remark that, after all, we were merely claiming that there are reasons supporting that p? Relatedly: why is it that the typical response to challenges is to try to defend the claim that p, not the (weaker) claim that there are reasons to believe that p? Finally, if all we are doing in philosophy is entering hedged claims, why is talk of our philosophical "commitments" so prevalent? Six rhetorical questions provided to invite the reader to share in the appearance mentioned in the previous point. No assertions here.
  • Reflecting on this practice, I conclude that assertions are made in philosophy, even in the face of systematic peer disagreement. Not obviously a contentious assertion. It could be an uncontentious assertion about Sandy. It could be the very weak assertion that assertions are sometimes made in philosophy under systematic disagreement.
  • PASD is true. Looks like a contentious assertion; I'd be willing to call it unwarranted, because of the objections mentioned above. (PASD is a claim about what is normal; the existential doesn't justify it.) Note also that this could be interpreted as embedded within the previous sentence's 'I conclude that' operator, in which case it would not be a contentious assertion.

Again, I don't think Sandy's writing here is idiosyncratic; this is what lots of analytic philosophy looks like. If this is representative, it seems that quite a small proportion of philosophical writing constitutes outright assertion of contentious claims. So the idea that such assertions are unwarranted does not imply that warranted philosophical dialogue and debate is impossible. Sandy exaggerates the role of contentious assertions in philosophical discussion.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Internalism and the Meditations

Here's a Cartesian idea: there is special epistemic access to facts about our own subjective, internal experiences. Other knowledge we may have, like knowledge of the external world, must be derived from the more basic knowledge, which concerns the internal.

This is clearly something Descartes thinks, but is there an argument to that effect? I'd always thought he did; the Meditations offers something like this:
  1. There are possible skeptical scenarios for beliefs about the external world
  2. There are no possible skeptical scenarios for beliefs about the internal
  3. Being such that there's no possible skeptical scenario for it is the marker of the kind of epistemic fundamentality in question; so
  4. The internal, not the external, is what has the kind of epistemic fundamentality in question
Premise (3) is no doubt dubitable, but I'll decline from dubiting it at present. I want to get clearer about (1) and (2). What's it take to be a skeptical scenario with respect to some belief? It seems like maybe Descartes treats a skeptical scenario with respect to a given belief as a possible case where one is wrong about that belief, but things seem exactly the same. But if that's the working understanding of a skeptical scenario, then it looks like we're just assuming the kind of internalism I'm looking for justification for. Why should we think the key question, for whether a given scenario has skeptical implications, is whether things seem the same? It seems that one would only sign up to that criterion if one were already convinced that seemings are really epistemically important.

Note that a more neutral characterization of skeptical scenarios might have it that a skeptical scenario with respect to p is a possible case where one is wrong about p, even though one has all the same basic evidence. But putting things this way, premises (1) and (2) become much less obvious.

So I'm tempted to think there's not actually any pressure in favour of internalism in Descartes's reflections on skeptical scenarios; reflection on which kind of deception is and isn't possible might just amount to teasing out the internalist commitments one initially finds oneself with.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Factoring Views about Having Reasons

I have been thinking about Mark Schroeder’s very interesting paper, “Having Reasons”. He argues against a ‘factoring account’ of having a reason for action, and he also argues that epistemologists have been misled by assuming a parallel factoring account of evidence.

I have three reactions.

  1. Schroeder is unclear about what exactly the commitments of the factoring account are; I think he may slide between a stronger and a weaker reading of it. This isn’t disastrous for his own project, because he wants to reject both readings, but I think it’s important to keep them separate (in part because of (2) below).
  2. The stronger reading is pretty plausibly false (though maybe not just for the reasons Shroeder says) but the weaker reading is pretty plausibly true (despite his arguments).
  3. Epistemologists have not been misled by assuming (a strong form of) the factoring account.
I’ll try to defend (1) in this post.

What is the factoring account? Schroeder first introduces it via an analogy:
When someone has a ticket to the opera, that is because there is a ticket to the opera, and it is in her possession—she has it. Similarly, if one has a golf partner, this can only be because there is someone who is a golf partner, and one has him. But here, it is not like there are people out there who have the property of being golf partners, and one is in your possession. Rather, being a golf partner is simply a relational property, and the golf partner you have—your golf partner—is simply the one who stands in the golf partner of relation to you. 
A factoring account of having opera tickets is true. There is an opera ticket, and moreover, one has it. A factoring account of having golf partners, however, is to be rejected. What exactly is wrong with this view? Schroeder says it’s a commitment to the implausible claim that “there are people out there who have the property of being golf partners, and one is in your possession.” But of course, strictly speaking, there are people out there who are golf partners, and one of them is mine. I agree with Schroeder that there’s an important contrast between these cases, but I don’t think he’s quite articulated what it is. I think it has to do with grounding. What makes it the case that I have an opera ticket is the existence of this thing the opera ticket, combined with me standing in a suitable relationship to it. But the existence of the golf partner, combined with my relationship to her, doesn’t make it the case that I have a golf partner. On the contrary, it is my having her as a golf partner that makes it the case that she is a golf partner. The relationship, not the object, is relatively fundamental here; the existence of the golf partner—though genuine—is derivative.

So distinguish these claims:

  • Weak Factoring: Any time S has R as a reason, there exists a reason R, and S stands in a suitable having relation to R.
  • Strong Factoring: What it is for S to have R as a reason is for there to exist a reason R, and for S to stand in a suitable having relation to R.
As the names imply, Strong Factoring implies Weak Factoring, but not vice versa. If what I said about golf partners is correct, Weak Factoring does not get at the intuitive contrast between opera tickets and golf partners. The analogue of Weak Factoring is true of golf partners. (Contra the letter of Schroeder's text, any time one has a golf partner, there really is someone who is a a golf partner that one has.) I don’t think Schroeder is at all clear about this; he writes at times as if ‘the Factoring Account’ is just Weak Factoring. (i.e., “[T]he Factoring Account has two major commitments. In any case in which it seems that there is a reasons someone has to do something, whatever is the reason that she has must be just that: (1) a reason for her to do it, and (2) one that she has.” p. 58)

The distinction makes an important difference when it comes to thinking about the views one might have about reasons. For example, here is a possible view one might have about reasons: R=K. (A proposition is among a subject’s reasons if and only if the subject knows that proposition.) This view counts as a Weak Factoring view—any time you have knowledge, there is some knowledge, and moreover, you have it. But it is not a Strong Factoring view; the extinct of the knowledge ontologically depends on your having the knowledge. It is more like golf partners than opera tickets.

“Weak Factoring” is probably a misnomer, really—the view in question isn’t a kind of factoring at all. It’s a mere entailment claim. So when Schroeder’s argument against what he calls ‘The Factoring View’ takes the form of counterexamples to Weak Factoring, he’s really making a much more radical claim than anything we should call the rejection of a factoring treatment of having reasons. He's rejecting the mere entailment from having a reason to there being a reason.

(His counterexamples are cases where a subject acts on a reasonable but mistaken belief—like Bernard Williams’s subject who takes a sip of the liquid in his glass because he falsely believes it’s a martini. I don’t think these are counterexamples, for reasons I won’t go into right now.)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Perceptual Justification and the Logic of 'Because'

Here's an invalid argument form:

  1. If x is F, then that's because x is G.
  2. If x is G, then x is H. Therefore,
  3. If x is F, then that's because x is H.
This instance should make it obvious that this form is invalid, if it's not already obvious:

  1. If Laila got an A, then that's because she received a total score of 80 or higher.
  2. If Laila received a total score of 80 or higher, then she passed the course. Therefore,
  3. If Laila got an A, then that's because she passed the course.
I'm not sure just what inferences are valid in the logic of this sort of 'because', but this one isn't. If there were an appropriate 'because' in premise (2), then transitivity of 'because' would establish the validity of the inference. I'm not sure whether I think 'because' is transitive'. But it's not closed under the material conditional, or even entailment.

So I think that Eli Chudnoff is mistaken in supposing that these two arguments support the idea that perceptual and intuitive justification obtains in virtue of phenomenology:
  1. If your perceptual experience representing that p justifies you in believing that p, then it does so because in having this experience it is for you just like having a perceptual experience that puts you in a position to know that p.
  2. If in having an experience it is for you just like having a perceptual experience that puts you in a position to know that p, then it has presentational phenomenology with respect to p.
  3. So if your perceptual experience representing that p justifies you in believing that p, then it does so because it has presentational phenomenology with respect to p. (Intuition, p. 92)
  1. If your intuition experience representing that p justifies you in believing that p, then it does so because in having that experience it is for you just like having an intuition experience that puts you in a position to know that p.
  2. If in having an experience it is for you just like having an intuition experience that puts you in a position to know that p, then it has presentational phenomenology with respect to p.
  3. So if your intuition experience representing that p justifies you in believing that p, then it does so because it has presentational phenomenology with respect to p. (Intuition, p. 97)
These arguments are invalid. The validity would, I think, be debatable if each premise (2) were strengthened into a 'because' claim. Maybe that is the most charitable interpretation of Eli here?

Friday, March 06, 2015

My Academic Materials Sold without Permission

I am in the habit of giving my students, via UBC's course management system, access to detailed information from my courses—in the courses in which I use slides, I let students download my slides, in the courses where I don't, I let them download the 3–4-page notes I type up for them corresponding to each lecture. I let them download sample problem sets and lists of possible essay questions, detailed notes describing common issues that came up in grading exams or essays, etc. One potential drawback I have seen mentioned to this kind of practice is that it disincentivizes students from coming to class, since there are other ways to get the material. I expect this is a drawback of this habit—although I try to keep the class and these materials tightly integrated to mitigate that somewhat, but I'm generally of the opinion that the pedagogical value of being able to look over the material multiple times at a student's own pace outweighs this disadvantage. Certainly my students always tell me that they greatly appreciate these resources.

Unfortunately, however, there is another disadvantage I've become aware of over the past couple of years. There are for-profit websites that encourage students to take materials like mine and upload them into a database, where they then charge other students a fee for allowing them to access these files. (I'm not totally clear on how the sites work, but I think students are paid in some way—perhaps with site credit?—to upload these materials.) One such cite, 'CourseHero', has published over a hundred of my files on their site over the past few years. This is an illegal practice; these documents are my intellectual property, uploaded and sold for profit without my consent. Every few months I go through and check to see whether it's time to send a new DMCA takedown notice. (I am sending another today.) They do remove the files when I demand them to, but new ones always come up. To protect my copyright, I am required to spend a significant amount of my own time hunting down illegally uploaded material.

Besides the simple fact that is illegal, there are several reasons I am upset by this practice.

(1) It attempts to profit from the work I am doing for my employer and my students. My students at UBC are paying good money for the work I do, and the expertise I bring to bear, in the classroom. Some of that work is literally being stolen and sold.

(2) It removes the material from its appropriate context. I give my students these materials at particular times, and in a particular progression, for particular reasons. If one of my current students buys last year's notes and reads ahead, the material may not be presented in a helpful way at this stage in the semester. Indeed, in some cases, like when I make new conventional choices for logical notation in my formal logic course, last year's material will actually be misleading for this year's students.

(3) It interferes with my ability to assess. While I write new essay questions and problem sets each semester, it is helpful to be able to re-use some questions, or to introduce questions of a certain kind in assessed contexts. If students are able to download answer keys for previous semesters' material, I am less able fairly to assess their comprehension, since they had an unfair advantage. (Of course, this imbalance is particularly problematic when the advantage is offered to those able to pay for this service.)

(4) It violates the privacy of myself and of my students. The material will often discuss particulars of what ideas have been raised in class, including ideas generated by students. It is prepared for a particular audience, and not for public consumption. What students discuss in my class does not thereby become public knowledge. It also represents my own thinking about topics I'm often not publishing about—in some cases, I'm writing out my own relatively undeveloped philosophical thoughts, and in some, I'm playing devil's advocate or merely exploring an idea. In this non-research context, I won't always signal as clearly which is which than I would in something I'm intending for a public audience. It should be up to me whether to make this kind of content available to the broader public.

ADDED October 17, 2016:

(5) It gives students with the resources to pay for illicit notes an unfair advantage over students who can't afford them.

So, three messages:

Students: It is important to understand that the materials provided to you by your instructors are not yours to do with as you please. At least at UBC, they remain the intellectual property of the instructor, and are protected by copyright law. I have been told that at some institutions, they are the property of the university. I'm not sure. But you should certainly not assume that you are within your legal rights to sell the material your instructor gives you to any third-party. It might even be possible to prosecute students who violate instructors' intellectual property rights in this way. If you're not sure whether you have an instructor's permission to share course material, you can always ask.

Instructors: if you feel as I do that you don't want such materials to be sold by corporate websites, unfortunately it looks like you have to look out for this material yourself. I found a lot of things by searching for my name at the 'CourseHero' website; I found some other things not attached to my name by looking for course numbers. To demand the removal of material, you can send an email based on the following template. (At CourseHero, the address is

*** Sent via Email - DMCA Notice of Copyright Infringement ***
Dear Sir/Madam,
I certify under penalty of perjury, that I am an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the intellectual property rights and that the information contained in this notice is accurate.
I have a good faith belief that the page or material listed below is not authorized by law for use by the individual(s) associated with the identified page listed below or their agents and therefore infringes the copyright owner's rights.
This notice is sent pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the European Union's Directive on the Harmonisation of Certain Aspects of Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society (2001/29/EC), and/or other laws and regulations relevant in European Union member states or other jurisdictions.
My contact information is as follows:
Name: [______]
Organization name: [______]
Email: [______]
Phone: [______]
Mailing address: [______]
My electronic signature follows:
Infringing page/material that I demand be disabled or removed in consideration of the above:

Rights Holder: [______]

Original Work:
[list of offendingURLs]
CourseHero: Fuck you.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

I have a high opinion of Nous and PPR

While I can see some risk that I could be suffering a moral blindspot here, I feel like, as someone who's recently been speaking out about philosophy journal editorial practices, and also someone who worked closely for a couple of years with Nous and PPR, that I should make a point of making public my opinion that those journals seem, from all the evidence available to me, to be very well-run. I'm unaware of any editorial misconduct there, and I do not suspect that there has been any. I think the discipline would be a better place if more editors were more similar to Ernie Sosa.

I don't expect anybody to take my opinion as significant evidence on this matter, but I wanted to at least put myself on the record.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Maximizing the Value in Life

I like Amanda MacAskill's piece on sleeping in. Amanda argues very sensibly that while we think life is the kind of good where it's better to have more of it, we don't measure the relevant quantity by subtracting the date of birth from the date of death; the value in life comes from experiencing it. So ceteris paribus, if you spend more of your life asleep, you're missing out on some of what's good about life. This seems completely right. (Whether Amanda's advice to sleep less is good depends on the degree to which the quality of waking life would be degraded, which of course will vary between individuals.)

I have wondered for a little while, however, about a further development of a point like this. If it is the experience of life that is valuable, such that more of the experience is better than less, even if the biological lifespan is the same, it seems to me that there's also a case to be made that it's better to have more of the experience, even holding fixed the amount of time in which one is conscious. It's a familiar phenomenon that sometimes, the passage of time feels faster than at other times. If I'm sitting at home playing Dominion, I could spend eight hours and barely notice it. But if I'm taking photographs in a city I've never been to before, those eight hours feel much more full of my life.

I suspect, then, that for reasons much like the ones Amanda articulates in her piece, we have some reason not merely to sleep less, but to engage in those activities that slow perceived time down, and avoid those that speed it up. This suggests, for instance, that it might be a great idea to travel more, or that it might be a terrible idea to have children. Ceteris paribus.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Challenges for Anonymous Review

I'm continuing to think about journals. There are a lot of serious problems, and it's really unclear how to fix them. I want to lay out another problem I haven't seen remarked on before. This one's more about referees and authors than editors. I'll start with a problem that has been remarked on before:

As has recently been observed several times, even with the best editorial practices in the world, it's not very difficult for a referee who isn't committed to anonymous review to google the title of a submission and learn the author. If, like most of us, you don't submit your paper until after it's been around in various forms for a while—you've presented it at workshops, posted drafts online for comments, etc.—the anonymity of the review process is contingent on the whim of the referee. It's possible to take some steps here as an author—you can change the title prior to submission, for example. This will make it harder for a referee to discover your identity, but likely not impossible.

Here's the twist on the problem: the reason that anonymous refereeing is important is to avoid bias—preferential treatment of some submissions (those by established figures, white people, native English speakers, men, people educated at prestigious departments, etc.) over others. So while it's possible for authors to go to extraordinary measures to protect their anonymity, in many cases, it's against their own selfish interests to do so. Suppose for the purpose of argument—and this strikes me as fairly plausible—that I am someone who is more likely to be unfairly benefitted, than unfairly harmed, by a breakdown in anonymous review. I'm at least most of the kinds of people mentioned in that parenthetical. (I've never quite figured out whether I'm a white person or not.) When I submit my paper to a journal, the journal has a rule, and the profession has a norm, that I should anonymise my paper. I remove self-citations or put them into the third person, I omit acknowledgements, etc. But now I have a choice to make: in addition to removing that straightforward information from my submission, should I take my draft down from my website, and change the title? Should I paraphrase key sections that are too similar to the abstract of a talk I gave last year that's still up on a workshop website? If anonymous review were very important to me, I could go to extra effort to preserve it. But if I'm thinking selfishly—and I do think it's reasonable for individuals participating in this system to be making these kinds of decisions selfishly—I'm not going to be very motivated to do so.

It is only those who need the protection from negative bias who are incentivised to go to great lengths to ensure anonymous review. And so now we get to the next layer of the problem: if, as seems likely, the people most incentivised to ensure anonymous review are more likely than others to take the steps to render their submissions ungooglable, then ungooglibility becomes evidence a submission by someone referees are biased against. If a referee decides to google the paper, and finds nothing, the referee can take this to be evidence against the paper's having been written by someone "important".

I can only see two solutions to this problem; both seem very difficult to implement. The first is that authors don't treat these kinds of extraordinary measures as optional—journal policies or disciplinary norms could make clear that authors must not include drafts online, or references to titles, or submit papers with language too similar to language on workshop websites, etc. This seems like a very intrusive requirement, but if the rules could be articulated clearly enough, it might do the job. The other is the obvious one: that referees don't go seeking this information out. This requires sound judgment on the part of referees, and is hard to enforce, but it would also work. The difficulty here, of course, is that it's so hard for editors to get good referees (or any referees), because there's so little incentive to do the job well, ethically, or at all.

I don't know how to make the economics work, but I feel like a lot of things would be much easier if there were some way we could pay referees for their work.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Journal Editorial Practices and an Anecdote

I was interested to read the recent Daily Nous conversation about journal editorial practices. Much of the discussion there focused on whether double-anonymous refereeing (where the authors and referees are ignorant of each others' identities) was good enough, or whether triple-anonymous methods (where the editors are also unaware of the authors' identities) are necessary for a fair system.

I was interested to see many journals' editors describing their methods, and how they try to avoid bias. One question I didn't see addressed, however, concerns oversight. Is there any system in place to confirm whether journals are actually run the way they're said to? I would consider this a somewhat paranoid question, except that I know firsthand of at least one high-profile journal which at least sometimes, at the discretion of the editor, suspends its official policy of double-anonymous refereeing.

My experience happened shortly after I finished my PhD, when I was a postdoc. I knew at the time it was a problematic situation, but I decided it probably wasn't prudent to make a fuss at that stage in my career. I'd been intending to wait until I was tenured, but I think that given the conversations happening in the discipline at the moment, now is an appropriate time for the story to come to light. This is the story of "Quantifiers and Epistemic Contextualism," one of my first papers defending contextualism, which was eventually published in Philosophical Studies.

I apologize for the length of the narrative. I'd make more of a point of being concise, but I want to make sure that I explain exactly what happened, without editorial summarizing. (I'll express some opinions after telling the story.)

So here's the story.

After defending my PhD in 2008, and beginning work as a postdoc in St Andrews the same year, I started to develop some of the ideas from my dissertation into publishable papers. I submitted one of them, a defence of contextualism, to Philosophical Studies in March of 2009. That journal uses an online program for submissions where an author can watch the progress of his submission as it goes through various stages—'editor assigned', 'reviewer assigned', 'review completed', etc. I noticed in July that four months had passed and it still just said 'editor assigned'. (I knew from a previous paper that it ought to be progressing through other stages.) So I submitted a query through the online submission, asking whether my paper might have fallen through the cracks.

I received a response to that question in the form of a personal email from Stewart Cohen, the editor of the journal. Cohen wrote that "the reason your paper is listed as editor assigned, is that I'm going to review it myself." He said he hoped to get a chance to review it soon, and invited me to email him directly if I had any further questions. This happened in July. (Potentially relevant background not everyone might know: Cohen wrote several influential papers in defence of contextualism in the 1980s and 1990s; he is one of the prominent figures in this subfield of epistemology.)

In September 2009, Cohen was hired as a part-time professorial fellow at Arché, the same institution where I was working.

In October, Cohen came to St Andrews in connection with his new job. He spoke briefly with me about my submission then, saying that he generally liked it, but had some particular concerns. He sent me a lengthy email detailing them, and we had a rather involved back-and-forth exchange on various of the substantive philosophical questions. At the conclusion of this exchange, after I'd agreed to make various changes to the paper, we'd gotten down to just one major remaining point of disagreement. In my paper, I argued that my neo-Lewisian form of contextualism avoids a challenge that Cohen himself had leveled against Lewis, concerning his ability to handle both Gettier cases and lottery cases. Cohen had argued, in a 1998 paper, that Lewis can't have it both ways; but I suggested in my submission that the issue could be avoided. Cohen was unconvinced by my treatment of this part of the paper, but invited me to work on it further. He wrote to me in an email:
Let's call it a conditional acceptance. I'm not sure you've made any advance in applying the RA view to Gettier cases and so I don't want to commit to publishing that part of the paper. You may convince me that I'm wrong, but even if you don't, you can always just cut that part. So unless you think you'll refuse to cut it, even if I'm not satisfied, you can list it as forthcoming.
In November 2009, I submitted (via direct email to Cohen) a revised version of the paper. We corresponded briefly about it in January when Cohen was visiting Arché again, but he didn't read and respond to my new draft until April 2010, when he wrote back, saying that he was still unconvinced by my treatment of lotteries and Gettier cases. We had another email exchange, which continued until his next visit to Arché in May. On May 24, we met over coffee about whether the section in question ought to be published. By the end of that meeting, he did agree to publish it, and on May 25 I received an official acceptance from the journal, and an invitation to upload my final version. The paper did end up being published, including the revised version of the section defending Lewis from Cohen.

Ok, those were 'just the facts'. From here on out, I'm editorializing. These seem to me the important problematic points to emphasize:
  • The editor of Philosophical Studies seems to be treating submissions in his own area of research interest very differently from the way he treats other submissions, sometimes deciding to referee papers himself. As far as I know, Cohen was the sole referee for my submission.
  • At least sometimes, refereeing at Philosophical Studies isn't even double-anonymous. (Indeed, in this case it wasn't even single-anonymous.) I spent two hours sitting with my referee over coffee, arguing about whether his concern about my paper was correct. (This is at odds with their explicit policy of a "double-blind review procedure".)
  • There is lots of research showing the potential for various sorts of bias to come into play when one isn't making these decisions via anonymous review. But this is an extremely clear instance in which privilege worked to my advantage. I was a Rutgers PhD, with a job at a prestigious research institution, where my colleague literally down the hall (well, down the hall and around several corners) was the editor, who was also the referee. I was also the kind of person willing to be bold enough to argue with a senior figure who was repeatedly suggesting that my idea wasn't suitable for publication. (It helped that I was already on a first-name basis with him before the story began.) These factors, which had nothing to do with the quality of my submission, played a huge role in getting this early publication. And even with the advantages I had, I was still a fresh PhD without a tenure-track position—my desperation for a publication, combined with the strange relationship I was in with a powerful figure, was disconcerting to say the least. I very much doubt that Cohen understood how awkward my position was, or how uncomfortable it made me.
  • In addition to worries about anonymous review, I think it's also potentially problematic that Cohen's biggest concerns about my paper had to do with the particular section where I engaged critically with his own work. I don't think for a minute that he was motivated by a desire not to have critiques of his work published. (And I'm not also totally sure that his worries were unfounded—I think my paper probably improved when I took his worries more seriously.) But I do think that it's easy to be biased in favour of our own views, and that this is something a journal should be very careful to avoid. It wouldn't be practical or particularly desirable, I think, to prohibit referees who are being criticized in submissions—but I do think that this is a situation that calls for an editor (who is not the referee!) to observe particularly carefully, and take the referee's advice in the appropriate context. I don't know to what degree my experience represents a pattern, but I think it would be a very poor feature of a journal if submissions criticizing the ideas of the editor were quite likely to (a) be refereed by the editor himself, and (b) be scrutinized particularly critically. There is a very nearby possible world where I simply deleted the section of my paper critical of Cohen. 
On the whole I'm very confident in asserting that in at least one instance, Philosophical Studies engaged in seriously problematic editorial procedures. I don't know how atypical my story is.

I also want to explicitly note that this story occurred five years ago. I see that Jennifer Lackey and Wayne Davis were both added as Associate Editors of Philosophical Studies in 2011, after my paper was accepted in its final form. (Cohen is still the editor-in-chief.) I don't know how much change that represents. For all I know, it may be that a system is now in place such that stories like mine couldn't occur again. But I'd like to know. I'd like to call for a statement from Philosophical Studies about its editorial practices. (Phil Studies was not one of the journals whose practices were described in the Daily Nous post linked above.) In particular, does the editor still have the discretion to decide to referee a paper himself, with full knowledge of the author? Does the journal sanction the kind of back-and-forth discussion between editor–referee and author I describe? If not, are there procedures in place that prevent it from happening?

I'm not an anonymous-review absolutist; if a journal prefers not to have an anonymous refereeing system, I'm OK with that. But transparency is important; if Philosophical Studies is not a journal run with a commitment to anonymous review, then the philosophical community should probably be thinking of that journal in a very different way than it does.

Friday, January 16, 2015

New paper on knowledge first epistemology

Carrie Jenkins and I have written a paper exploring what it means to put "knowledge first". Here is our current draft. From the introduction:
There is a New Idea in epistemology. It goes by the name of ‘knowledge first,’ and it is particularly associated with Timothy Williamson’s book Knowledge and Its Limits. In slogan form, to put knowledge first is to treat knowledge as basic or fundamental, and to explain other states—belief, justification, maybe even content itself—in terms of knowledge, instead of vice versa. The idea has proven enormously interesting, and equally controversial. But deep foundational questions about its actual content remain relatively unexplored. We think that a wide variety of views travel under the banner of ‘knowledge first’ (and that the slogan doesn’t help much with differentiating them). Furthermore, we think it is far from straightforward to draw connections between certain of these views; they are more independent than they are often assumed to be.

Friday, January 02, 2015

New Year's Resolution: Weekly Writing

I feel like apologizing for navel-gazing, but it's my blog so I won't. Please skip if you don't care to read about me and my goals.

I didn't write as much as I wanted to in 2014. There are particular reasons it was a difficult year for me to make time to write, but it's pretty easy for that to be the case. My New Year's resolution for 2015 aimed at getting more writing done.

In particular, I resolve to get some non-trivial amount of writing done every week. At the end of each week, I should be able to identify ways in which my total writing output has increased. Maybe some weeks when I have other priorities it'll just be a paragraph. I hope there'll be some very productive weeks where I'll churn out most of a paper or chapter. But I resolve to make it a priority to do at least some writing every week. I'm talking writing for research purposes—things I intend to publish. (The tons of stuff I write for my students doesn't count.)

I'm the kind of person who benefits from structure and public accountability and feeling like I'm winning at a game. That's why this blog post is here. The plan is to update it weekly every Friday until 2016. If you notice that I'm behind in updating, please feel free to give me a hard time about it.

Here's a list of weeks that have ended in 2015 so far, with a note of what writing I've done in them.

  1. Jan 2. Started an overdue book review of Prichard's Epistemological Disjunctivism. (I blogged some in preparation for this in the fall, but this week I finally started the actual review.)
  2. Jan 9. I made a bit more progress on the book review—it's now perhaps 30% complete—and I also did a full round of edits on the knowledge first paper Carrie and I are writing together. It is now small finishing touches away from being sent to the editors. I'd like to have achieved more, but the first week of teaching isn't a bad excuse. Hopefully next week both of these will be finished, and I'll be well into a new paper on experimental philosophy.
  3. Jan 16. Carrie and I finished our knowledge first paper and sent it off. Penultimate draft here. I did some editorial work on my contextualism volume, working on lining up the last few authors. My book review isn't quite finished, as I'd hoped it'd be, but it's close. I've said 90% of what I want to, at 125% of the word count. So now I'm editing. I should certainly have sent it off by next week. I also hope to make revisions on a dreaming paper and send it off; and to start on an intuitions/x-phi paper.
  4. Jan 23. I didn't get as much writing done this week as I'd've liked. I made significant progress on two research-related items: a grant application and editorial work for my contextualism volume, but very little actual writing of research. I did finish and send off the book review. That's about all I can claim though. My writing goals for next week are the same as those for this week.
  5. Jan 30. I failed my resolution this week. I spent all of my research time on a grant application.
  6. Feb 6. Another tough week. This resolution is harder than I'd thought! I have started my new intuitions paper, barely. I have a holiday weekend coming up, so I expect to be able to report significant progress next week.
  7. Feb 12. (I'm reporting on this week Thursday, as I am about to fly west across the Pacific Ocean, and Friday isn't really going to happen for me.) I did ok this week. I made some substantial progress on my dreaming paper edits, and I began some serious work on my experimental philosophy paper. I'll spend most of the next week traveling, but I will be back soon enough so that I hope I'm able to report more progress on the latter, and finishing the former.
  8. Feb 20. I have continued to work on editing my dreaming paper. I may even finish it later today. This coming week, I'll focus on the intuitions paper.
  9. Feb 27. I finished and submitted the dreaming paper. Intuitions paper needs work.
  10. Mar 6. Another tough week. I made minimal progress on the intuitions paper, as well as some preparatory work on an intuitions book review.
  11. Mar 13. I did OK this week; I made some significant process on the intuitions paper. I am resolved to finish it before the next update.
  12. Mar 20. A reasonably productive week. I completed a draft of the intuitions paper. I'm starting preliminary work on a new book review, but I think the bulk of my new writing in the next couple of weeks can actually be on my knowledge book.
  13. Mar 27. Some minimal editing work on my book.
  14. Apr 3. Failed this week. The APA was in town and sucked up my time.
  15. Apr 10. Not a great week, if technically a success. I finalised a paper on modal epistemology. The last week of class. (No more excuses!)
  16. Apr 17. Worked on revisions to x-phi paper. Not enough.
  17. Apr 24. Finalized intuition paper, and managed a little work on my book. (Started the action chapter.)