A Control Theory of Action
This essay proposes a theory of action. The central claim of the theory is that action is movement that is controlled by the mover, where movement is understood capaciously and control is characterized by a trio of conditions consisting of an aim condition, a modal condition, and an explanatory condition. Importantly, being controlled is shown to be a determinable property of movements, and its determination dimensions are isolated. Paired with the claim that action is movement that is controlled by the mover, this account of control as a determinable illuminates a key idea motivating the proposed theory of action, namely that there is a variety of forms of action.
Anscombe's Knowledge Thesis and the Argument from Distinct Thresholds
In her groundbreaking Intention, G.E.M. Anscombe defends the Knowledge Thesis: while intentionally Xing, one knows without observation that one is Xing. This thesis has proved deeply controversial, largely due to what looks like a wealth of counterexamples. Among those who follow Anscombe, some have defended weaker versions of the Knowledge Thesis. Some weaken the necessity of the connection between knowledge and action, usually by granting the proposed counterexamples. Others retain the necessary connection, but alter the features, content, or species of the knowledge necessary for action. In this paper, I present an argument to the effect that we have good reason to think that there is no necessary connection between intentional action and knowledge, no matter the assumed features, content, or species of the knowledge. Further, rather than argue by counterexample, I present an argument that explains why we continue to find counterexamples to claims of a necessary connection between action and knowledge. The explanation is in the spirit of Gilbert Harman's separation of intentional action and belief and Michael Bratman's separation of intentional action and intention in that it relies on the place of intentional action in ethical life.
Escaping Arrow's Theorem: The Advantage-Standard Model
with Wesley Holliday
There is an extensive literature in social choice theory studying the consequences of weakening the assumptions of Arrow's Impossibility Theorem. Much of this literature suggests that there is no escape from Arrow-style impossibility theorems unless one drastically violates the Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives (IIA). In this paper, we present a more positive outlook. We propose a model of comparing candidates in elections, which we call the Advantage-Standard (AS) model. The requirement that a collective choice rule (CCR) be rationalizable by the AS model is in the spirit of but weaker than IIA; yet it is stronger than what is known in the literature as weak IIA (two profiles alike on x, y cannot have opposite strict social preferences on x and y). In addition to motivating violations of IIA, the AS model makes intelligible violations of another Arrovian assumption: the negative transitivity of the strict social preference relation P. While previous literature shows that only weakening IIA to weak IIA or only weakening negative transitivity of P to acyclicity still leads to impossibility theorems, we show that jointly weakening IIA to AS rationalizability and weakening negative transitivity of P leads to no such impossibility theorems. Indeed, we show that several appealing CCRs are AS rationalizable, including even transitive CCRs.
Zetetic Indispensability and Epistemic Justification
Robust metanormative realists think that there are irreducibly normative, metaphysically heavy normative facts. One might wonder how we could be epistemically justified in believing that such facts exist. According to Enoch’s (2007, 2011) deliberative indispensability argument, we are so justified because robustly real normative facts are instrumentally indispensable to the rationally non-optional project of practical deliberation. However, at the center of this argument is an account of the sources of basic epistemic justification which, as McPherson and Plunkett (2015) convincingly argue, fails to respect the close connection between epistemic justification and truth. In this paper, I offer an improved deliberative indispensability argument for Robust Realism by offering an alternative account of the sources of basic epistemic justification that respects the close connection between epistemic justification and truth. The improved indispensability argument is based on the thought that in light of our agential natures, engaging in practical deliberation is constitutive of being a successful inquirer for creatures like us.