The fruits of June 
I had meant to blog more in June, but I did not.

I did, however, collaborate with my colleague Brad Armour-Garb on a paper. We started in the first week of June and have now finished a stable draft, which I posted over on my website.

Attitudes, self-ascriptions, and introspection

Summary: People regularly answer questions about their propositional attitudes. Moreover, they are fairly reliable at this. For example, if someone is asked whether she believes that Mickey Mouse has a tail, she can quickly answer if she does. Only under rare circumstances would we say that she was wrong if she sincerely asserted that she did believe that Mickey Mouse has a tail. But this raises some questions. How do people readily make such self-ascriptions? And what explains their impressive reliability?

We critically address Robert Gordon's (2007) recent attempt at explaining self-ascriptions of propositional attitudes without an appeal to introspection. In particular, after explaining Gordon's proposal for how we make such self-ascriptions and for how we can explain their impressive reliability, we show that his position is ultimately untenable. We then provide a different explanation for how we can self-ascribe such attitudes and go on to show that we can do this without any real reliance on introspection.

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May blows in 
My paper Kind of Borrowed, Kind of Blue has been published in the Spring issue of JAAC.

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Feminist philsci 
Last week I sat in on a meeting of a feminist philosophy course taught by my colleague Kristen Hessler. She was doing a unit on feminist philosophy of science and invited me to say a bit about how it relates to philosophy of science generally.

It occurred to me that feminist philosophy of science was a considerable influence on me. I got started writing about underdetermination when I was in grad school by thinking about Helen Longino's work. That ended up being the topic of my dissertation and many of my early papers.

Here are two other related thoughts: one about the significance of 1980s and 90s feminist philosophy of science, and another about two strands in the literature on values and science.

1. I hypothesize that feminist philosophy of science in the 1990s was crucial for subsequent literature that takes seriously the entanglement of science and values. Philosophers often presumed a value-free conception, especially in the Science Wars waged against relativist sociologists and others. Feminist philosophy of science modelled an alternative -- a way to recognize values in science without wild relativism.

There was not really a "values and science" literature in the 1990s the way that there is now. My guess is that this has been possible in part because of the initial wedge provided by feminist philosophy of science.

2. The literature in the 21st century has gone in two directions.

Literature in feminist philosophy of science has articulated ways in which specific sciences involve thick evaluative concepts, can change our conception of what is good, and so on. As these cases have been elaborated, the entanglement with values doesn't depend on some general argument which applies to all science (like underdetermination) but instead on details about particular cases. So this literature has narrowed insofar as it only applies clearly to specific cases, mostly in human and biological sciences. It is not clear how gender is entangled with (e.g.) astronomy.

There is also an active literature on values in science which is not explicitly feminist. For example, Heather Douglas argues that values always play an indirect role in theory choice. That is, adopting a theory reflects not just the evidence but also an assessment of the costs of possible errors and the benefits of possible accurate judgments. Another example: Justin Biddle and Eric Winsberg on climate science, who argue that current science is path-dependent. It reflects not just the evidence but also which prior enquiries were conducted and in which order. So value-laden choices about what to study and when effect the outcome of enquiries now.

Note that these latter considerations are, in one sense, broader than those raised by feminists. They apply to pretty much all science -- to astronomy as much as to biology and human sciences.

In another sense, they are narrower. Feminist philosophers of science argue against any limitation on what values may influence science. For the indirect role of values, it's only assessments about costs of various errors. For path-dependence, it's only past judgements about what ought to be done.

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I ought to mention 
I recently posted an updated version of my paper, coauthored with Jon Mandle, on the is-ought gap.

Somehow the gravitas of blogging has made me hesitant to post one-liners like this. I too-easily forget that I used to have an RSS feed just for new papers and updates to drafts, and that I suspended that when I started blogging because I could write one-liner developments posts to achieve the same effect.

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The internal proletariat is a-risin' (maybe) 
There seems to be more campus activism now than there was a decade ago or (peering further into the past) when I was a student in the 90s and early 00s. However, there's a loud chorus of the jabbering about current activism which decries student activists as entitled cry-babies who want to undo the enlightenment.

This story at the Daily Beast leads with the headline "The College That Wants to Ban 'History'". The story is actually about students at Western Washington University who issued over-the-top demands in which they opted to spell 'history' as 'hxstory' and 'person' as 'persxn'. Coverage at Inside Higher Ed is even-handed enough to note that this spelling is a peculiar affectation: "Replacing certain letters in pronouns or some other words (like 'Latinx' for Latino or Latina) with an X is [a] strategy to avoid gendered language. Changing other words, like 'person' and 'history,' in that way does not appear to be a very common at all, however: neither 'hxstory' nor 'persxn' have been used often enough to be graphable by Google Trends."

It seems unlikely this is actually a substantial student movement. The group's petition has only reached half of its goal signatures, and most of those are transparently unserious. Some use perennial joke names like 'Benjamin Dover'. Some use less common joke names like 'Solomon Lowe' and 'Mush Forbrains'. Others didn't even bother with joke names and just sign the petition with expletives, like 'Lolololol NOPE' and 'Demanding Entitled Shithead'.
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