May 26, 2006

Hey There, Three Remaining Readers

This makes me wonder about the context-dependence of "shaggy."

Posted by Matt Weiner at 11:40 AM | Comments (6)

May 12, 2006

Three Papers

I've posted three new papers on my site. The big one is The (Mostly Harmless) Inconsistency of Knowledge Attributions, which I've been working on for a while but which only now is ready to go public, with references and everything. In it I present a fourth alternative to invariantism, contextualism, and relativism about the word 'knows'. The idea is that our knowledge-talk is governed by a set of mutually inconsistent Knowledge Principles concerning the circumstances under which knowledge-ascriptions are true. Nevertheless, knowledge-talk rarely leads to any practical problems, because our practice of knowledge-ascription is such that we rarely encounter situations where the Principles would lead us to contradict ourselves. If the Principles are taken as inference rules, then usually only certain rules are deployed in certain kinds of situations, keeping us out of trouble.

I've also posted Does Knowledge Matter?, which I'd rather call "Practical Reasoning and the Concept of Knowledge," which is the paper I'll be giving at the Epistemic Value Conference in Stirling in August; and a revised version of Gaps in Semantics for 'Knows'.

The first paper argues that we cannot motivate the importance of knowledge in itself in terms of its role in practical reasoning (as we might think if we adopt a Hawthorne/Stanley view of the importance of the practical environment for determining the standards for knowledge). There is no single standpoint from which knowledge appears to be the key concept for practical reasoning, such that one should use p as a premise in practical reasoning if and only if one knows that p. Rather, from various standpoints on practical reasoning various other concepts (such as truth and justification) are the key concept, and knowledge gains its importance because it more or less combines these concepts which are important in themselves.

The Gaps paper discusses DeRose's views about what happens when different participants in a conversation use different standards for knowledge. DeRose argues that in such cases knowledge ascriptions are truth-valueless. I argue that on this view there will be a wide variety of cases with gappy knowledge-ascriptions. This paper goes along with the inconsistency paper, because the cases in which knowledge ascriptions are truth-valueless (on this view) are the cases in which our inconsistent knowledge-talk can lead us into contradiction (on the inconsistency view).

I'll probably be intermittently on the web for a little while, so enjoy! (Links in post are to pdfs; Word versions can be found at the main paper site.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 03:56 PM | Comments (6)

May 07, 2006

Jonathan Chait Is Not Paying Attention

via Yglesias, Jonathan Chait (in an article about Joe Lieberman) makes a claim that won't hold up:

Republicans only tolerate political moderates if they hail from states or districts that won't elect staunch conservatives. It's a pure strategic calculation. The GOP supports Republican moderates such as Arlen Specter and Lincoln Chafee because they represent "blue states." Those who come from "red states" are expected to toe the line.

The bit about Specter makes no sense, on two levels. First of all, though Pennsylvania is a blue/swing state presidentially, its other senator is Rick Santorum, whose conservative credentials are unimpeachable to a fault. Santorum is in trouble this election, but there's hardly proof that extreme conservatives can't be elected in Pennsylvania.

Second, Specter came very close to being defeated in a primary by the extreme right-wing Pat Toomey. The national GOP apparatus, including Santorum, did support Specter, but that's most likely because Specter is an incumbent.

As to why the GOP tolerates moderates, the answer is that it doesn't. There are no real moderate Republicans in the Senate any more. Specter, whose reputation for moderation is largely based on his nominal pro-choice credentials, used his role as Judiciary Committee Chairman to ensure confirmation of the paternalistically anti-choice Samuel Alito. Not for nothing does Yglesias call Republican alleged moderates The Fraud Caucus.

And that's the truly disturbing thing about Chait's remark. He covers Washington for a living, and he still hasn't figured out how the GOP works. It would be nice if there were true GOP moderates, but there aren't, and Chait should get used to it.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 06:21 PM | Comments (0)

They Have More Money

Particularly in light of this discussion, I found this article interesting. A lot of great novels through history have been written about the various gradations of class and money, and there might be one in there about the rich woman who won't have her grad-school classmates over to her three-bedroom apartment because it might seem ostentatious. (I'm more sympathetic to the assistant professor who tells her child "Don't think that you're one of the rich kids, because you're not," for some reason.)

The Yabroff article attributes part of the income disparity between friends to meritocracy-based higher education. I think this doesn't refer to people from poor backgrounds who get educations and wind up making more than their old friends from the neighborhood–the old friends from the neighborhood usually aren't dreamt of in Sunday Styles' philosophy–but college friends, some from rich backgrounds some not; which is especially relevant to the Unfogged discussion. And much of this goes back to the idea that the U.S. doesn't have nearly as much social mobility as we'd like to think.

Pop-culture note: The Friends with Money movie mentioned in the article looks like it'll be worth catching, since it's by Nicole Holofcener, whose movies I've never seen but who's known for propelling the career of Catherine [swoon] Keener.

via RivkaT chez iocaste212

Posted by Matt Weiner at 12:48 PM | Comments (6)

Restricted Diet

I was thinking about the ubiquity of explicit standards for context-sensitive terms like "tall," and decided to search for the phrase "tall for a" in order to bring that out. The result? AOTW all but one of the relevant entries on the first two pages (excluding references to "Sarah Plain and Tall" and "too tall for a") are to philosophy and linguistics discussions. Maybe we need a new example.

(Past the first couple of screens we do find more free-range uses of "tall for a," including this brilliant one: "I'm tall for a short person, over 5' 10"...."

Posted by Matt Weiner at 12:20 PM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2006

Implicature Watch

An article about the Yankees-Red Sox game contains the following statement:

The rule of thumb if you don't have a calculator, which I learned many years ago from a wonderful gentleman named Bob Fishel, a Yankees public relations director: If the records are over .500 and one team has one more victory and one more loss, that team is almost always behind the other team in the standings. If the records are under .500, the team with one more victory and one more loss would generally be ahead.

I quibble with the words in boldface. I was under the impression that, if 1 ≥ x/y > .500, x/y > (x+1)/(y+2), necessarily. And if 0 < x/y < .500, x/y < (x+1)/(y+2), necessarily. Unless we allow an infinite number of games, but last I checked even baseball does not have an infinitely long season.

The first paragraph of this article does have a correct implicature, however:

Larry Lucchino, the chief executive, graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, Princeton, and Yale law school, so he has to be a pretty intelligent guy, too.

Well, I don't know about those other two schools, but the first implicature is right.
[UPDATE: Or maybe not. Stupid algebra error fixed.]

Posted by Matt Weiner at 12:11 PM | Comments (12)

May 01, 2006

Blogroll Update

Elendil pointed out in comments that the sidebar link to my dissertation is broken -- I never changed it from the Utah page. So it's fixed, and while I was at it I decided to clear out some dormant links and add in a few new ones. Including Elendil's own Rummy's Diaries, as described in the previous post. (The blogs I deleted are mostly ones that haven't posted at all in 2006.)

Incidentally, an explanation of the snark in the previous title: The reason I called it the "War on Whatever" instead of the "War on Terror" is that it's clear that many of the victims of our human rights abuses have nothing whatever to do with terrorism. And the Bush Administration has made it pretty clear that they would want the power to do whatever the hell they want to whether or not terrorism was a problem, and that fighting actual terrorism is not so much a priority. Hence, snark, as ineffective as it is.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 08:20 AM | Comments (1)