The new Philosopher’s Annual has been compiled.
This volume—the 42nd—covers the literature from 2022.
The publication aims to “select the ten best articles published in philosophy each year—an attempt as simple to state as it is admittedly impossible to fulfill.”
The selections are:
- James Allen (Toronto), “Radicalism and Moderation in the New Academy” from Phronesis
A dispute in the form of rival interpretations of Carneades arose in the New Academy about whether the wise person is permitted to form (mere) opinions. One party rejected opinion; the other defended it. Because the terms enjoy a certain currency, the positions are here labelled ‘radical’ and ‘moderate’ respectively. This essay tackles the question whether and how they differed. It argues (a) that the disagreement was less about human epistemic capacities than about the standards and aspirations against which they should be measured and (b) that Cicero, our principal source, was a consistent adherent of the ‘radical’ party.
- Elizabeth Barnes (Virginia), “Gender without Gender Identity: The Case of Cognitive Disability” from Mind
Growing efforts are being made to highlight the importance of gender identity to gender categorization. Philosophical theories of gender have traditionally focused on gender role—the social norms, obligations, and positions that others impose on you based on perceived gender. But the experiences of trans, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people have shown that an exclusive focus on gender role is inadequate for theorizing gender. We also need to consider a person’s relationship to gender categories and gender norms. Two people might both be perceived by others as women, but while one thinks of herself as a woman the other thinks of themself as genderqueer. And this difference in gender self-identification is not merely a difference in personal feeling. A gender nonconforming woman and a genderqueer person—even if they are treated similarly by others—will often experience and navigate gender norms and roles quite differently, and this difference matters to a full understanding of gender. In what follows, I am by no means attempting to dispute that gender identity is an important aspect of gender and gender categorization. Rather, I’m going to argue that we shouldn’t swing the pendulum too far the other way. It’s become increasingly common, in both popular and philosophical explanations of gender, to claim that gender identity uniquely determines one’s gender, that is, that gender categorization is solely a matter of gender self-identification. That, I’ll argue, is too strong. While gender identity matters, it isn’t the sole determinant of gender.
- Richard Bradley (LSE), “Impartial Evaluation under Ambiguity” from Ethics
How should an impartial social observer judge distributions of well-being across different individuals when there is uncertainty regarding the state of the world? I explore this question by imposing very weak conditions of rationality and benevolent sympathy on impartial betterness judgments under uncertainty. Although weak enough to be consistent with all the main theories of rationality, these conditions prove to be sufficient to rule out any heterogeneity in what is good for individuals, to require a neutral attitude to uncertainty on the part of the social observer, and to require that both individual and social betterness be strongly separable.
- Sarah Buss (Michigan), “Personal ideals and the ideal of rational agency” from Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
All of us have personal ideals. We are committed to being good (enough) friends, parents, neighbors, teachers, citizens, human beings, and more. In this paper, I examine the thick and thin aspects of these ideals: (i) their substance (to internalize an ideal is to endorse a particular way of being) and (ii) their accountability to reason (to internalize an ideal is to assume that this is really a good way to be). In considering how these two aspects interact in the ideal of rational agency, I address two philosophical debates that are generally conducted in isolation of each other: (i) debates over the anti-ideal of normative “fetishism” and (ii) debates over whether acting for a reason is acting “under the guise of the good.” In the final two sections of the paper, I further explore the relations among the thick and the thin. I note the role that coherence constraints play in the process whereby our ideals gain determinacy. At the same time, I argue, our ideals constrain the possibility and desirability of coherence. This has implications for a third debate: the debate over the possibility of moral dilemmas.
- Eddy Keming Chen (UC San Diego), “Fundamental Nomic Vagueness” from The Philosophical Review
If there are fundamental laws of nature, can they fail to be exact? In this paper, I consider the possibility that some fundamental laws are vague. I call this phenomenon fundamental nomic vagueness. I characterize fundamental nomic vagueness as the existence of borderline lawful worlds and the presence of several other accompanying features. Under certain assumptions, such vagueness prevents the fundamental physical theory from being completely expressible in the mathematical language. Moreover, I suggest that such vagueness can be regarded as vagueness in the world. For a case study, we turn to the Past Hypothesis, a postulate that (partially) explains the direction of time in our world. We have reasons to take it seriously as a candidate fundamental law of nature. Yet it is vague: it admits borderline (nomologically) possible worlds. An exact version would lead to an untraceable arbitrariness absent in any other fundamental laws. However, the dilemma between fundamental nomic vagueness and untraceable arbitrariness is dissolved in a new quantum theory of time’s arrow.
- Karolina Hübner (Cornell), “Representation and Mind-Body Identity in Spinoza’s Philosophy” from the Journal of the History of Philosophy
The paper offers a new reading of Spinoza’s claim that minds and bodies are “one and the same thing,” commonly understood as a claim about the identity of a referent under two different descriptions. This paper proposes instead that Spinoza’s texts and his larger epistemological commitments show that he takes mind-body identity to be (1) an identity grounded in an intentional relation, and (2) an identity of one thing existing in two different ways.
- Yoaav Isaacs (Baylor), John Hawthorne, and Jeffrey Sanford Russell (USC), “Multiple Universes and Self-Locating Evidence” from The Philosophical Review
Is the fact that our universe contains fine-tuned life evidence that we live in a multiverse? Ian Hacking and Roger White influentially argue that it is not. We approach this question through a systematic framework for self-locating epistemology. As it turns out, leading approaches to self-locating evidence agree that the fact that our own universe contains fine-tuned life indeed confirms the existence of a multiverse (at least in a suitably idealized setting). This convergence is no accident: we present two theorems showing that, in this setting, any updating rule that satisfies a few reasonable conditions will have the same feature. The conclusion that fine-tuned life provides evidence for a multiverse is hard to escape.
- Chunghyoung Lee (Pohang U. of Science & Technology), “I Am Not the Zygote I Came from because a Different Singleton Could Have Come from It” from the The Philosophical Review
Many people believe that human beings begin to exist with the emergence of the 1-cell zygote at fertilization. I present a novel argument against this belief, one based on recently discovered facts about human embryo development. I first argue that a human zygote is developmentally plastic: A zygote that naturally develops into a singleton (i.e., develops into exactly one infant/adult without twinning) might have naturally developed into a numerically different singleton. From this, I derive the conclusion that a human infant or adult is numerically distinct from the zygote she came from and so did not begin to exist at fertilization. This implies that a zygote does not have a “future like ours” and strongly suggests that it is not a human being.
- Jake Quilty-Dunn (Rutgers), Nicolas Porot (Mohammed VI Polytechnic University), and Eric Mandelbaum (CUNY), “The Best Game in Town: The Re-Emergence of the Language of Thought Hypothesis Across the Cognitive Sciences” from Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Mental representations remain the central posits of psychology after many decades of scrutiny. However, there is no consensus about the representational format(s) of biological cognition. This paper provides a survey of evidence from computational cognitive psychology, perceptual psychology, developmental psychology, comparative psychology, and social psychology, and concludes that one type of format that routinely crops up is the language of thought (LoT). We outline six core properties of LoTs: (i) discrete constituents; (ii) role-filler independence; (iii) predicate-argument structure; (iv) logical operators; (v) inferential promiscuity; and (vi) abstract content. These properties cluster together throughout cognitive science. Bayesian computational modeling, compositional features of object perception, complex infant and animal reasoning, and automatic, intuitive cognition in adults all implicate LoT-like structures. Instead of regarding LoT as a relic of the previous century, researchers in cognitive science and philosophy of mind must take seriously the explanatory breadth of LoT-based architectures. We grant that the mind may harbor many formats and architectures, including iconic and associative structures as well as deep-neural-network-like architectures. However, as computational/representational approaches to the mind continue to advance, classical compositional symbolic structures—i.e., LoTs—only prove more flexible and well-supported over time.
- Francesca Zaffora Blando (Carnegie Mellon), “Bayesian Merging of Opinions and Algorithmic Randomness” from The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
We study the phenomenon of merging of opinions for computationally limited Bayesian agents from the perspective of algorithmic randomness. When they agree on which data streams are algorithmically random, two Bayesian agents beginning the learning process with different priors may be seen as having compatible beliefs about the global uniformity of nature. This is because the algorithmically random data streams are of necessity globally regular: they are precisely the sequences that satisfy certain important statistical laws. By virtue of agreeing on what data streams are algorithmically random, two Bayesian agents can thus be taken to concur on what global regularities they expect to see in the data. We show that this type of compatibility between priors suffices to ensure that two computable Bayesian agents will reach inter-subjective agreement with increasing information. In other words, it guarantees that their respective probability assignments will almost surely become arbitrarily close to each other as the number of observations increases. Thus, when shared by computable Bayesian learners with different subjective priors, the beliefs about uniformity captured by algorithmic randomness provably lead to merging of opinions.
The editors of Philosopher’s Annual are Patrick Grim (Center for the Study of Complex Systems, University of Michigan; Logic & Formal Semantics, Philosophy, Stony Brook), Sean Costello, Paul de Font-Reaulx, and Malte Hendrickx.
The nominating editors for this volume were: Jc Beall, Ned Block, Ben Bradley, Liam Kofi Bright, Lara Buchak, Tyler Burge, Victor Caston, David Chalmers, Andrew Chignell, Roger Crisp, Cian Dorr, Adam Elga, Iskra Fileva, Branden Fitelson, Graeme Forbes, Aaron Garrett, Michael Glanzberg, Alexander Guerrero, Alan Hajek, Ned Hall, Elizabeth Harman, Gary Hatfield, Benj Hellie, Christopher Hitchcock, Des Hogan, Simon Huttegger, Simon Keller, Tom Kelly, Niko Kolodny, Jennifer Lackey, Marc Lange, Brian Leiter, Ernie Lepore, Neil Levy, Martin Lin, John Marenbon, Colin McLarty, Jeff McMahan, Shaun Nichols, Paul Noordhof, Graham Oddie, Rohit Parikh, Derk Pereboom, Richard Pettigrew, Duncan Pritchard, Theron Pummer, Greg Restall, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, Barry Schein, Mark Schroeder, Laura Schroeter, Stewart Shapiro, Ted Sider, Scott Soames, Roy Sorensen, Quayshawn Spencer, Katie Steele, Una Stojnik, Eric Swanson, Johan van Benthem, Mark van Roojen, Sergio Tenenbaum, Peter B. M. Vranas, Eric Watkins, Danielle Wenner, Gideon Yaffe, Jose Zalabardo, and Kevin Zollman.
Previous editions of Philosopher’s Annual can be found here.