John Greco provides the following modal account of ability.
R = result
C = condition(s)
MAA: S has an ability A(R/C) relative to environment E = Across the set of relevantly close worlds W where S is in C and in E, S has a high rate of success in achieving R. [2007, 61]
I think this formulation is viciously circular. Having an ability with respect to some result is a necessary condition of achieving that result. For example, Smith can’t achieve hitting the game winning shot unless he has basketball abilities. He may hit the game winning shot without basketball abilities–say, because of luck–but we won’t call his hitting the shot an achievement. However, Greco has suggested that S has an ability A with respect to some result R just in case S achieves R. Because the notion of achievement presupposes a success through ability, achievement can’t be used in a definition of ability.
Maybe MAA can be modified to avoid the circularity problem. I offer the following.
MAA*: S has an ability A(R/C) relative to environment E = Across the set of relevantly close worlds W where S is in C and in E, S has a high rate of success in producing R.
I like this formulation better because as we have seen from the example of Smith, one can produce some result R while not being credited with achieving R.
Greco, John. “The Nature of Ability and the Purpose of Knowledge” Philosophical Issues, 17, 2007.
In part one of this post, I described how my loyalty to Evangelicalism led me on a long and difficult search for a church which both takes real Christianity seriously and would also accept people who are (as I am, I’m ashamed to say) flawed even to the point of being rather dislikeable. In this part, I will try to explain a few of the problems that I find so troublesome and which have forced me to reconsider my loyalty to Evangelicalism. I will then finish the story. View full article »
Nearly four years ago now, John published a post titled “Why I Became a Lutheran.” In that post John gave seven positive characteristics of Lutheranism as justification for his decision. My response at the time was that I mostly agreed with—and even applauded—every one of them with the exception of sacramental theology. I reasoned that the good things which he attributed to Lutheranism (with the one exception) were not excluded by Baptist theology, so a person would not necessarily have to turn to Lutheranism to find them. Sacramental theology was (and probably always will be) the issue of substantive disagreement between the two camps. I felt that John should state his rejection of the Baptist denomination in terms of things about Baptist theology with which he had bona fide disagreement. View full article »
(The following is a post by guest blogger, Lowell Mcdonald)
If you want to make a friend or enemy quickly, bring up abortion. Abortion is at the very center off our so-called culture war ever since the infamous Roe v. Wade decision handed down from the Supreme Court in 1973. I, for one, think that the vitriol that accompanies this debate is justified, for the argument about abortion is, at its heart, an argument about what it means to be human. Should you disagree with me, consider the fact that the slavery debate was also essentially about human nature (is the African a human being, or an animal that I can use alongside my cattle?)and we ended that debate in a bloody war. In the Civil War, people bled and died, each believing that it was either good or evil to own a slave. Yet, consider that alternative: had blood not been shed, American slavery, the most oppressive and cruel regime of slavery ever seen on the face of the earth, might very well still be a reality in modern America. The argument about abortion is important because, once again, human rights hang in the balance.
Many philosophers understand this and use the abortion debate to advance various accounts of human personhood, some of which, I will argue are at odds with a very important piece of moral real estate- namely, human equality. View full article »
It is common fare in epistemology these days to find philosophers referring to knowledge as a normative enterprise. This is just the idea that knowledge involves the notions of praise and blame. When one knows that p, she can be praised for knowing that p; we can prefer the judgment of someone who knows something over against the judgment of someone who believes something truly, but does so because of luck or chance.
There are various theories which attempt to explain epistemic normativity. One such theory is known as epistemic deontologism. John Greco includes (and critiques—although I won’t focus on his critiques here) two formulations of this position in his most recent work (Achieving Knowledge: A Virtue-Theoretic Account of Epistemic Normativity). The first formulation is considered “weak” because it simply requires that one not offend any epistemic rules when forming her beliefs. The second formulation is considered “strong” because it requires that one form her beliefs on the basis of certain epistemic rules.
- D(W). S’s belief that p has knowledge-relevant normative status if and only if S’s belief violates no correct cognitive rule.
- D(S). S’s belief that p has knowledge-relevant normative status if and only if S’s belief is governed by correct cognitive riles; i.e. S’s belief is the result of following such rules. (Greco, 20) View full article »
“I don’t believe in God.”
Utter this statement aloud and expect visible, verbal reactions. If you are around a group of “believers,” then expect subtle facial expression changes reflecting confusion, fear, and/or anger. If you are around a group of “unbelievers” you may receive a congratulation, a cry of “hurrah,” somewhere along the lines of “good job, you belong to the enlightened.” Oddly, this same phenomenon can be observed when reversed. The dynamic of belief and group is here being fleshed out. When a group organizes around a particular set of beliefs, typically adherence to those beliefs forms not just the entrance into the group, but also the necessary assumption of continuance with the group. If, for whatever reason, you fail to maintain the beliefs of the group, you will be excluded.
I want to argue that this dynamic between group and belief is misplaced. When a group says they have excluded someone from the group because of that person’s “belief” (in the above sense) I propose that they have confused beliefs with thoughts. I want to simultaneously argue that the group’s intuition that exclusion because of belief is necessary for maintenance of the group is correct and should not be curtailed. In order to do this, I want to maintain that not only is there a distinction between thoughts and beliefs, but also that there is something valuable or harmful about a belief that is not the case with a thought. We may accuse controlling, exclusionary groups of “group-think,” but we would do better to call it “group-belief.” View full article »