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The Doomsday Argument is a case-study in 'probabilistic illusion', for it rests on a web of insidious intuitions, hidden assumptions and seductive but imprecise analogies. The Argument claims that the observation that we are alive now increases the probability that Homo sapiens will become extinct in the relatively near future. It does not predict Doom at a specific time or with a specific probability. Its conclusion is more abstract and puzzling: whatever our best estimate would be (based on all available evidence, including the latest scientific, historical or other research) of the probability that our species is relatively close to extinction, it must be revised upwards. In reaching this conclusion, the Argument does not rely on evidence in the ordinary sense or, indeed, on anything peculiar to our present situation; it would yield...
Darwinian theories of culture need to show that they improve upon the commonsense view that cultural change is explained by humans’ skillful pursuit of their conscious goals. In order for meme theory to pull its weight, it is not enough to show that the development and spread of an idea is, broadly speaking, Darwinian, in the sense that it proceeds by the accumulation of change through the differential survival and transmission of varying elements. It could still be the case that the best explanation of why the idea has developed and spread is the conscious pursuit of human goals. Meme theory has the potential to do explanatory work in diverse ways. It can challenge the goal-based account of cultural change directly. Other possibilities for meme theory include explaining the acquisition of our goals and showing that memes and gene...
Conventional economic theory assumes that economic agents are rational decisionmakers in the sense that they act as if they were trying to maximize some one-dimensional criterion. A well-known body of experimental work has increasingly shed doubt on the assumption that human beings are rational in this sense, however. Recently, some economic theorists have tried to justify the assumption of rationality by appealing to a cultural analogue of natural selection. Robert Sugden’s interesting paper is highly critical of this strategy – the evolutionary strategy, for short. Indeed, some of Sudgen’s remarks might be read to suggest that Darwinian theorizing about cultural evolution is a sterile enterprise of “manipulating tautologies about replicators” that can have no relevance to the empirical question of whether human beings are rationa...
I offer a new argument against the legal positivist view that non-normative social facts can themselves determine the content of the law. I argue that the nature of the determination relation in law is rational determination: the contribution of law-determining practices to the content of the law must be based on reasons. That is why it must be possible in principle to explain what makes the law have the content that it does. It follows, I argue, that non-normative facts about statutes, judicial decisions, and other practices cannot themselves determine the content of the law. A full account must appeal to considerations independent of the practices that determine the relevance of the practices to the content of the law. Normative facts are the best candidates.
In a recent paper, “How Facts Make Law” (Greenberg 2004; hereafter HFML), I launch an attack on a fundamental positivist doctrine. I argue that non-normative facts cannot themselves determine legal norms. In response, Ram Neta (2004) defends the view that non-normative social facts, such as practices, are sufficient to determine norms, including both moral and legal norms. Neta’s paper provides a useful opportunity to address a spelled-out version of this view, which in various forms is widely held in philosophy of law and other areas of philosophy. Neta’s leading idea is that descriptive facts – practices – can alone provide a full account of normativity. He first argues that, in all normative domains, descriptive facts in part determine the content of the norms, and the relevant determination relation is rational determinat...
In this paper, I propose a new way of understanding the space of possibilities in the field of mental content. The resulting map assigns separate locations to theories of content that have generally been lumped together on the more traditional map. Conversely, it clusters together some theories of content that have typically been regarded as occupying opposite poles. I make my points concrete by developing a taxonomy of theories of mental content, but the main points of the paper concern not merely how to classify, but how to understand, the theories. Also, though the paper takes theories of mental content as a case study, much of the discussion is applicable to theories of other phenomena. To a first approximation, the difference between the traditional and the proposed taxonomies turns on whether we classify theories o...
In “How Facts Make Law” (Greenberg 2004), I argue that non-normative contingent facts are not sufficient to determine the content of the law. In the present paper, I take up a challenge raised by Enrique Villanueva (2005). He suggests that, to put it very briefly, descriptive facts can be reasons. Therefore, even if the content of the law depends on reasons, it does not follow that law practices cannot themselves determine the content of the law. Villanueva proposes a value-neutral criterion – textualism. In other words, he suggests that the descriptive facts about the meaning of legal texts are themselves reasons that determine the contribution of law practices to the content of the law. This suggestion depends on too shallow a conception of the requirement of reasons. For the law to be rationally determined, it is not eno...
Fodor’s asymmetric-dependence theory of content is probably the best known and most developed causal or informational theory of mental content. Many writers have attempted to provide counterexamples to Fodor’s theory. In this paper, I offer a more fundamental critique. I begin by attacking Fodor’s view of the dialectical situation. Fodor’s theory is cast in terms of laws covering the occurrence of an individual thinker’s mental symbols. I show that, contrary to Fodor’s view, we cannot restrict consideration to hypothetical cases in which his conditions for content are satisfied, but must consider whether the relevant laws exhibit the specified asymmetric-dependence relations in actual cases. My central argument is that the laws that the theory requires do not in fact exhibit the appropriate asymmetric-dependence relations. ...
In this paper, I deploy an argument that I have developed in a number of recent papers to show that the most influential version of legal positivism - that associated with H.L.A. Hart - fails. The argument's engine is a requirement that a constitutive account of legal facts must meet. According to this rational-relation requirement, it is not enough for a constitutive account of legal facts to specify non-legal facts that modally determine the legal facts. The constitutive determinants of legal facts must provide reasons for the obtaining of the legal facts (in a sense of "reason" that I develop). I show that the Hartian account is unable to meet this requirement. That officials accept a rule of recognition does not by itself constitute a reason why the standards specified in that rule are part of the law of the community. I argue that...
I first argue that standard versions of moral internalism are untenable in light of a type of example that has not previously been considered in metaethical discussions. As a consequence of having unusual views, a good-willed thinker could make moral judgments and recognize moral facts without having a disposition to be motivated to act accordingly (and without believing himself to have reasons for action). Moreover, on a familiar conception of irrationality as incoherence, the thinker in question need not be irrational, and it is not clear that there is a relevant conception of rationality on which he must be irrational. The first part of the paper therefore strengthens some of the most important arguments that have been taken to undermine internalism and support externalism. Next, however, I argue that these arguments seem t...
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