11 November, 2012

My Philosophical Positions

As promised in a previous entry, I have decided to make my answers to the 2009 PhilPapers Survey public on my blog. These answers were previously made public in a LessWrong poll, but in the interest of making my specific positions easy to read, I've compiled them all here. Note that this post is intended solely to give my position on each of these issues, and does not currently have commentary on why I feel as I do. However, in future entries I intend to zero in on each issue; as I do so, I plan to link to those entries from these position statements in order to more explicitly share why I hold these particular philosophical positions.

My answers are given in bold. The distribution of answers from the 2009 PhilPapers survey is given as a percentage after each answer. Note that percentages for "accept" and "lean toward" are combined here, although more finely grained results are available on the PhilPapers site. A short explanation (thanks to pragmatist & PhilPapers' clarifications for help) of each question is provided for any readers that are not well versed in these issues. Links to future blog posts on why I hold each position will be made available as I write them. Links to relevant SEP articles are provided.

The 2009 PhilPapers Survey



A priori knowledge: yes or no?
  • Accept: yes (71.1%)
  • Lean toward: yes
  • Accept: no (18.4%)
  • Lean toward: no
  • Other (10.5%)
Yes: There exist facts we can know without our knowledge being based on sensory experience.
No: Justification of knowledge requires sensory experience.


Abstract objects: nominalism or Platonism?
  • Accept: nominalism (37.7%)
  • Lean toward: nominalism
  • Accept: Platonism (39.3%)
  • Lean toward: Platonism
  • Other (23.0%)
Abstract objects are objects that do not correspond to any pattern of matter/energy in space-time.
Nominalism: Abstract objects do not exist.
Platonism: Abstract objects exist.


Aesthetic value: objective or subjective?
  • Accept: objective (41.0%)
  • Lean toward: objective
  • Accept: subjective (34.5%)
  • Lean toward: subjective
  • Other (24.5%)

Analytic-synthetic distinction: yes or no?
  • Accept: yes (64.9%)
  • Lean toward: yes
  • Accept: no (27.1%)
  • Lean toward: no
  • Other (8.1%)
Yes: Some sentences are true solely due to the meanings of the words.
No: Every sentence is open to empirical falsification or no sentence is open to falsification.


Epistemic justification: internalism or externalism?
  • Accept: internalism (26.4%)
  • Lean toward: internalism
  • Accept: externalism (42.7%)
  • Lean toward: externalism
  • Other (30.8%)
Externalism: Belief can be justified even when the justification os not consciously available to the subject.
Internalism: Belief is only justified if there is conscious understanding of the justification.


External world: idealism, skepticism, or non-skeptical realism?
  • Accept: idealism (4.3%)
  • Lean toward: idealism
  • Accept: skepticism (4.8%)
  • Lean toward: skepticism
  • Accept: non-skeptical realism (81.6%)
  • Lean toward: non-skeptical realism
  • Other (9.2%)
Idealism: Reality is not mind-independent.
Skepticism: Mind-independent reality exists, but we lack epistemic access to it.
Non-skeptical realism: Mind-independent reality exists, and we have epistemic access to its structure.


Free will: compatibilism, libertarianism, or no free will?
  • Accept: compatibilism (59.1%)
  • Lean toward: compatibilism
  • Accept: libertarianism (13.7%)
  • Lean toward: libertarianism
  • Accept: no free will (12.2%)
  • Lean toward: no free will
  • Other (14.9%)
Compatibilism: We can have free will in a deterministic universe.
Libertarianism: Incompatibilism is true and we have free will.
No free will: Free will does not exist.


God: theism or atheism?
  • Accept: theism (14.6%)
  • Lean toward: theism
  • Accept: atheism (72.8%)
  • Lean toward: atheism
  • Other (12.6%)
Theism: Gods exist.
Atheism: Gods do not exist.


Knowledge: empiricism or rationalism?
  • Accept: empiricism (35.0%)
  • Lean toward: empiricism
  • Accept: rationalism (27.8%)
  • Lean toward: rationalism
  • Other (37.2%)
Empiricism: Only sensory experience gives us new information.
Rationalism: Some information exists that we can arrive at without sensory experience.


Knowledge claimscontextualismrelativism, or invariantism?
  • Accept: contextualism (40.1%)
  • Lean toward: contextualism
  • Accept: relativism (2.9%)
  • Lean toward: relativism
  • Accept: invariantism (31.1%)
  • Lean toward: invariantism
  • Other (25.9%)
Contextualism: The truth of a knowledge claim depends on the context in which it is uttered.
Relativism: Whether a subject possesses knowledge of a proposition is relative to a set of epistemic standards.
Invariantism: The truth of knowledge claims does not depend on context and is not relativized to epistemic standards.


Laws of nature: Humeanism or non-Humeanism?
  • Accept: Humeanism (24.7%)
  • Lean toward: Humeanism
  • Accept: non-Humeanism (57.1%)
  • Lean toward: non-Humeanism
  • Other (18.2%)
Humeanism: The laws of nature are compressed descriptions of salient patterns in the distribution of physical events.
Non-Humeanism: The laws of nature are not mere descriptions, but actually determine the distribution of physical events.


Logic: classical or non-classical?
  • Accept: classical (51.6%)
  • Lean toward: classical
  • Accept: non-classical (15.4%)
  • Lean toward: non-classical
  • Other (33.1%)
Classical: Standard logics, such as Boolean logic or first-order predicate calculus, are best (or correct).
Non-classical: The best logic is not classical (e.g., paraconsistent logic).


Mental content: externalism or internalism?
  • Accept: externalism (51.1%)
  • Lean toward: externalism
  • Accept: internalism (20.0%)
  • Lean toward: internalism
  • Other (28.9%)
Externalism: The representational content of our mental states is dependent upon properties of our external environment.
Internalism: The representational content of our mental states is fixed by our brain state.


Meta-ethics: moral realism or moral anti-realism?
  • Accept: moral realism (56.4%)
  • Lean toward: moral realism
  • Accept: moral anti-realism (27.7%)
  • Lean toward: moral anti-realism
  • Other (15.9%)
Moral realism: Objective moral facts exist.
Moral anti-realism: Objective moral facts do not exist.


Metaphilosophy: naturalism or non-naturalism?
  • Accept: naturalism (49.8%)
  • Lean toward: naturalism
  • Accept: non-naturalism (25.9%)
  • Lean toward: non-naturalism
  • Other (24.3%)
Naturalism: All causes are natural.
Non-naturalism: Supernatural causes exist.


Mind: non-physicalism or physicalism?
  • Accept: non-physicalism (27.1%)
  • Lean toward: non-physicalism
  • Accept: physicalism (56.5%)
  • Lean toward: physicalism
  • Other (16.4%)
Physicalism: A physical duplicate of our world must necessarily also be a mental duplicate.
Non-physicalism: Mental states are not dependent on physical states.


Moral judgment: cognitivism or non-cognitivism?
  • Accept: cognitivism (65.7%)
  • Lean toward: cognitivism
  • Accept: non-cognitivism (17.0%)
  • Lean toward: non-cognitivism
  • Other (17.3%)
Cognitivism: Moral statements have truth conditions.
Non-cognitivism: Moral statements have no truth conditions.


Moral motivation: internalism or externalism?
  • Accept: internalism (34.9%)
  • Lean toward: internalism
  • Accept: externalism (29.8%)
  • Lean toward: externalism
  • Other (35.3%)
Internalism: A necessary connection exists between sincere moral judgment and either justifying reasons or motives.
Externalism: Any connection that exists between moral judgment and motivation is purely contingent.


Newcomb's problem: two boxes or one box?
  • Accept: two boxes (31.4%)
  • Lean toward: two boxes
  • Accept: one box (21.3%)
  • Lean toward: one box
  • Other (47.4%)
Omega appears before you with two boxes and says you may take Box A or take both Box A and Box B. Omega has almost certain predictive power and does not lie. Omega has predicted which you will choose; if Omega predicts you will take just Box A, then Box A will contain $1,000,000. Box B always contains $1,000. How many boxes do you take?


Normative ethics: consequentialism, deontology or virtue ethics?
  • Accept: consequentialism (23.6%)
  • Lean toward: consequentialism
  • Accept: deontology (25.9%)
  • Lean toward: deontology
  • Accept: virtue ethics (18.2%)
  • Lean toward: virtue ethics
  • Other (32.3%)
Consequentialism: The morality of actions depends only on their consequences.
Deontology: There are moral principles that forbid certain actions and encourage other actions purely based on the nature of the action itself, not on its consequences.
Virtue ethics: Ethical theory should not be in the business of evaluating actions, but in the business of evaluating character traits.


Perceptual experience: disjunctivism, qualia theory, representationalism, or sense-datum theory?
  • Accept: disjunctivism (11.0%)
  • Lean toward: disjunctivism
  • Accept: qualia theory (12.2%)
  • Lean toward: qualia theory
  • Accept: representationalism (31.5%)
  • Lean toward: representationalism
  • Accept: sense-datum theory (3.1%)
  • Lean toward: sense-datum theory
  • Other (42.2%)
Disjunctivism: In normal cases, when a person is perceiving something, the object of their perception is a mind-independent object.
Representationalism: Perceptual experience is representational.
Sense-datum theory: The objects of our perception are not mind-independent entities, they are mind-dependent objects called sense-data.
Qualia theory: The phenomenal character of our perceptual experience is non-representational.


Personal identity: biological view, psychological view, or further-fact view?
  • Accept: biological view (16.9%)
  • Lean toward: biological view
  • Accept: psychological view (33.6%)
  • Lean toward: psychological view
  • Accept: further-fact view (12.2%)
  • Lean toward: further-fact view
  • Other (37.3%)
Physical view: The maintenance of personal identity requires bodily continuity.
Psychological view: The maintenance of personal identity requires continuity of psychological states.


Politics: communitarianism, libertarianism, or egalitarianism?
  • Accept: communitarianism (14.3%)
  • Lean toward: communitarianism
  • Accept: libertarianism (9.9%)
  • Lean toward: libertarianism
  • Accept: egalitarianism (34.8%)
  • Lean toward: egalitarianism
  • Other (41.0%)

Proper names: Fregean or Millian?
  • Accept: Fregean (28.7%)
  • Lean toward: Fregean
  • Accept: Millian (34.5%)
  • Lean toward: Millian
  • Other (36.8%)
Fregean: The meaning of a proper name is a way of conceiving of its bearer.
Millian: The meaning of a proper name is its bearer.


Science: scientific anti-realism or scientific realism?
  • Accept: scientific anti-realism (11.6%)
  • Lean toward: scientific anti-realism
  • Accept: scientific realism (75.1%)
  • Lean toward: scientific realism
  • Other (13.3%)
Scientific anti-realism: There are no strong reasons to believe in their theoretical claims about unobservable entities (though epistemic justification of predictions exist).
Scientific realism: There are strong reasons to believe in the theoretical claims about unobservable entities made by our best scientific theories.


Teletransporter (new matter): survival or death?
  • Accept: survival (36.2%)
  • Lean toward: survival
  • Accept: death (31.1%)
  • Lean toward: death
  • Other (32.7%)
You are placed in a machine that will instantaneously disintegrate your body, in the process recording its exact atomic configuration. This information is then beamed to another machine far away, and in that machine new matter is used to construct a body with the same configuration as yours. Would you consider yourself to have survived the process, and teleported from one machine to the other ("survival")? Or do you think you have died, and the duplicate in the far away machine is a different person ("death")?


Time: B-theory or A-theory?
  • Accept: B-theory (26.3%)
  • Lean toward: B-theory
  • Accept: A-theory (15.5%)
  • Lean toward: A-theory
  • Other (58.2%)
B-theory: Specifying the temporal ordering of all events in space-time exhausts all the objective temporal facts about those events.
A-theory: Specifying the temporal ordering of all events in space-time does not exhaust all the objective temporal facts about them.


Trolley problem (five straight ahead, one on side track, turn requires switching): switch or do't switch?
  • Accept: switch (68.2%)
  • Lean toward: switch
  • Accept: don't switch (7.6%)
  • Lean toward: don't switch
  • Other (24.2%)
There is a trolley traveling along a set of tracks. The driver has lost control of the trolley. On the track ahead of the trolley are five people who cannot get off the track in time and will all die if the trolley gets to them. You are standing next to a lever that can switch the track the trolley will take, preventing the deaths of the five people. On the other track is a single person who also cannot get away in time and so will die if you switch the track. Do you refrain from switching the track or do you switch the track?


Truth: correspondence, deflationary, or epistemic?
  • Accept: correspondence (50.8%)
  • Lean toward: correspondence
  • Accept: deflationary (24.8%)
  • Lean toward: deflationary
  • Accept: epistemic (6.9%)
  • Lean toward: epistemic
  • Other (17.5%)
Correspondence: A proposition is true if and only if it bears some sort of congruence relation to a state of affairs that obtains.
Deflationary: Ascribing truth to a proposition amounts to no more than asserting the proposition.
Epistemic: To say that a proposition is true is just to say that it meets a high standard of epistemic warrant, and that we are thereby justified in asserting it.


Zombies: inconceivable, conceivable but not metaphysically possible, or metaphysically possible?
  • Accept: inconceivable (16.0%)
  • Lean toward: inconceivable
  • Accept: conceivable but not metaphysically possible (35.6%)
  • Lean toward: conceivable but not metaphysically possible
  • Accept: metaphysically possible (23.3%)
  • Lean toward: metaphysically possible
  • Other (25.1%)
A zombie is physically identical to a human being but does not possess phenomenal experience. There is nothing it is like to be a zombie.

Inconceivable: We cannot fully conceive of a zombie.
Conceivable but not metaphysically possible: One can arrive at a coherent conception of zombies, but objects that match this conception cannot possibly exist, not even in worlds with different laws of nature than ours.
Metaphysically possible: The existence of zombies is possible.

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