What’s Wrong with the World

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Some recent philosophical work

Being an independent scholar in philosophy has as an advantage that one gets the fun of philosophy without the fuss of faculty meetings, but it does have the occasional disadvantage that no one knows much of what you're up to. So here are a few links and blurbs:

--I have a paper on the formula for updating probabilities on change in uncertain evidence (known as the Jeffrey Conditioning formula) recently accepted by Journal of Philosophical Research. I've made some changes to the paper to make it more user-friendly for epistemologists without a lot of background in probability theory, and the latest version is here.

--That is a companion piece to this paper, "Foundationalism, Probability, and Mutual Support," which appeared last year in Erkenntnis 68 (2008):55-77. The Erkenntnis paper is, in my opinion, particularly important, because it shows by example that epistemology can profit from probability theory. Specifically, Bayesian probability theory helps to sharpen concepts that allow a foundationalist to model mutual support without agreeing that there are "true loops of support" in one's evidence structure. Ironically, the tool for this modeling is the Jeffrey Conditioning formula, and Richard Jeffrey was an avowed opponent of strong foundationalism. But history has many surprising twists and turns to it, and a formula is a formula.

Both of those papers were presented in draft form three years ago at the Formal Epistemology Workshop (FEW) 2006.

--Amazon says that the big, gigantic volume from Blackwell on Philosophy of Religion is now out, though I haven't actually had this confirmed from the publisher. In that volume appears the house-style-edited version of this paper by Tim and me on the resurrection of Christ. Note: Suppose you are an atheist philosopher and are uninterested in philosophy of religion but are genuinely interested in epistemology and confirmation theory. You'll find stuff to interest you in this paper. Among other highlights are a discussion of the vexed issue of independence of evidence and situations in which it's okay to treat evidence as independent even though it isn't--specifically, where you have reason to believe that the failure of independence actually makes the case stronger, so the independence assumption gives you a lower bound. Also of interest (and not found elsewhere, as far as I know) is the way the paper discusses the "space under ~R" and the fact that, for the evidence to fail to favor R, a proposed alternative must not only have high likelihood for the evidence but must also occupy a non-negligible space under ~R. This point has relevance far beyond the confines of philosophy of religion.

--In just a couple of weeks, Tim and I leave for Leuven, where we are on the program of a conference on Formal Methods in the Epistemology of Religion. Our presentation will be on the proper formal representation of testimony, including testimony to the miraculous, and the question of witness reliability. Hint: All in all, we think Bayes factors rock.

--Finally, though I'm nowhere near paper stage, I hope to apply some of the material on Bayes factors worked out in the resurrection article to the question of ad hocness generally and, more specifically, to the question of deceiver scenarios.

Let me just add one more note: Though I do not have an institutional affiliation, indeed, partly because I have no institutional affiliation, I have had a fairly large philosophical correspondence over the years. This has been profitable to me as well, I hope, as to my correspondents. The acknowledgements of my papers are full of names of people who have helped me with research and literature questions, who have caught technical mistakes, and the like. If you are a graduate student in philosophy or a fellow philosopher interested in the areas above or others you find discussed in the papers linked from my personal web page, you do not necessarily have to interact about them in the comments thread on a blog. While I do sometimes let correspondence lapse and do sometimes answer very briefly, I'm happy to talk shop by way of e-mail (as well, of course, as in person if you should happen to be in my area or I in yours). And it doesn't cost anyone a penny in tuition or faculty salary. Isn't the modern world amazing?

Comments (5)

That's impressive, Lydia. And you're also a nice person, which ranks you #1 in my book. And you cook a mean lasgna, which makes you a gourmet as well.

Santa Killer!

Santa Killer!

That's not exactly true. It was simply the case that the "space under ~S" was non-negligibly filled with massive evidence to the contrary.

Thanks, Frank. I take the compliment on the lasagna especially kindly coming from a person of Italian descent. :-)

Nah, my "Santa killer" credentials don't count as _philosophical_ work.

It should rightly be:

Santa Sleigher.

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