Author Archives: Paul Gowder

Does the Modesty Argument Apply to Moral Claims?

In “Enhancing Our Truth Orientation,” Robin argues that Aumann’s theorem applies to moral claims. I’m very skeptical of this position, primarily because there does not seem to be a plausible way to translate moral positions into the kinds of probability judgments suitable for Bayesian reasoning.

What reason do we have to believe that moral positions can be understood as subjective probabilities? Is there anyone who genuinely believes that, say, deontology is true with a probability of .7, virtue ethics with a probability of .299, and utilitarianism with a probability of .001? Or that it’s 35% likely to be true that you can’t lie to the murderer at the door? (Kant’s infamous case.) Does it even make sense to say that? Is it at all coherent? What might it mean to utter the statement “there is a .35 probability of it being wrong to lie to the murderer at the door?”

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In[]cautious defense of bias

I think it might be worthwhile to speculate on ways that bias might have beneficial effects, in the course of asking ourselves how committed we ought to be to its elimination. I can think of four effects that seem to be particularly interesting, and I’ve outlined them beneath the fold.

In summary, the possible benefits I’d like to kick around are as follows: (a) random error (“noise”) might permit truth to develop by an evolutionary process; (b) bias-originated views might break the hegemony of other bias-originated views; (c) some biases might generate beneficial self-fulfilling prophecies; and (d) bias-originated errors might help us exercise and develop our argumentative and educative capacities.. (Warning: this is a fairly long post.)

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