Brian Weatherson

Brian’s Papers Page

Intellectual Skill and the Rylean Regress. Ryle’s regress argument for anti-intellectualism has not had a good press lately. I argue this is undeserved; the argument yields some interesting conclusions. But the conclusion is not that there is a difference between know how and know that, but rather than we need to posit a certain kind of intellectual skill, that is distinct from propositional knowledge.

Interest-Relative Invariantism. A survey article on interest-relative invariantism.

Asymmetric Disagreements. A short talk for a disagreement conference in St Andrews, May 2016. It discusses cases where one party to a disagreement holds a kind of view the other party takes to be incoherent.

The Evidentialist Theory of Disagreement. Defends a version of the steadfast view of disagreement. Disagreement is relevant just to the extent that it provides evidence one lacks relevant evidence.

Should we Act on Higher-Order Evidence. No. A talk for the 2014 AAP.

Moral Ignorance is Rarely Exculpatory. Argues against the idea that moral ignorance excuses.

Older Work

To access further papers, click on one of the headings below.

Epistemology Papers
  1. Games, Beliefs and Credences. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 92 (2016): 209-236.
  2. Interest-Relative Invariantism. In Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism, edited by Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa, forthcoming.
  3. Reply to Eaton and Pickavance. Philosophical Studies, forthcoming.
  4. For Bayesians, Rational Modesty Requires Imprecision. Ergo 2 (2015): 20.
  5. Memory, Belief and Time. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45 (2015): 692-715.
  6. Probability and Scepticism, In Scepticism and Philosophical Justification, edited by Dylan Dodd and Elia Zardini OUP, 2014, pp 71-86.
  7. Disagreements, Philosophical and Otherwise, In The Epistemology of Disagreement, edited by David Christensen and Jennifer Lackey, OUP, 2013, 54-75.
  8. Margins and Errors, Inquiry, 56 (2013): 63-76.
  9. Ross on Sleeping Beauty, Philosophical Studies, 163 (2013): 503-512.
  10. Dogmatism, Probability and Logical Uncertainty, co-authored with David Jehle. In New Waves in Philosophical Logic, edited by Greg Restall and Gillian Russell, Palgrave, 2012, pp 95-111.
  11. Games and the Reason-Knowledge Principle, The Reasoner, 6 (2012): 6-7. (published version)
  12. Knowledge, Bets and Interests, in Knowledge Ascriptions, edited by Jessica Brown and Mikkel Gerken, OUP, 2012, pp 75-103.
  13. Induction and Supposition, The Reasoner, 6 (2012): 78-80. (published version)
  14. The Temporal Generality Problem, Logos and Episteme 3 (2012): 117-122. (published version)
  15. Defending Interest-Relative Invariantism, Logos and Episteme 2 (2011): 591-609. (published version)
  16. Stalnaker on Sleeping Beauty, Philosophical Studies, 155: 445-456.
  17. Deontology and Descartes’ Demon. Journal of Philosophy 105 (2008): 540-69.
  18. The Bayesian and the Dogmatist. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 107 (2007): 169-85.
  19. Should We Respond to Evil with Indifference? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 70 (2005): 613-35.
  20. Scepticism, Rationalism and Externalism. Oxford Studies in Epistemology 1 (2005): 311-31.
  21. Can We Do Without Pragmatic Encroachment? Philosophical Perspectives 19 (2005): 417-43.
  22. Luminous Margins. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (2004): 373-83.
  23. Are You a Sim? Philosophical Quarterly 53 (2003): 425-31.
  24. Keynes, Uncertainty and Interest Rates. Cambridge Journal of Economics 26 (2002): 47-62.
  25. Begging the Question and Bayesianism. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 30 (1999): 687-97.
Philosophy of Language Papers
  1. No Royal Road to Relativism. Analysis 71 (2011): 133-43.
  2. Epistemic Modals and Epistemic Modality ((with Andy Egan).in Andy Egan and Brian Weatherson (eds.), Epistemic Modality, Oxford University Press, 2011, pp 1-18.
  3. Assertion, Knowledge and Action (with Ishani Maitra). Philosophical Studies 149 (2010): 99-118.
  4. Vagueness as Indeterminacy. In Cuts and Clouds, edited by Richard Dietz and Sebastiano Moruzzi, OUP 2010, pp. 77-90.
  5. Conditionals and Indexical Relativism. Synthese 166 (2009): 333-57.
  6. Attitudes and Relativism. Philosophical Perspectives 22 (2008): 527-44.
  7. Questioning Contextualism. In Aspects of Knowing, edited by Stephen Hetherington, Elsevier, 2006, pp. 133-47.
  8. True, Truer, Truest. Philosophical Studies 123 (2005): 47-70.
  9. Epistemic Modals in Context (with Andy Egan and John Hawthorne). In Gerhard Preyer and Georg Peter (eds) Contextualism in Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 131-69.
  10. Many Many Problems. Philosophical Quarterly 53 (2003): 481-501.
  11. Epistemicism Parasites and Vague Names. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81 (2003): 276-9.
  12. Misleading Indexicals. Analysis 62 (2002): 308-10.
  13. Indicative and Subjunctive Conditionals. Philosophical Quarterly 51 (2001): 200-16.
Other Research Articles
  1. Centrality and Marginalisation, Philosophical Studies, forthcoming.
  2. Humean Supervenience, forthcoming in Blackwell Companion to David Lewis, edited by Barry Loewer and Jonathan Schaffer, forthcoming.
  3. Running Risks Morally, Philosophical Studies, 167 (2014): 141-163. In Defence of the ACA's Medicaid Expansion (with Ishani Maitra), Public Affairs Quarterly 27 (2013): 267-288. Abridged version reprinted in The Affordable Care Act Decision, edited by Fritz Alhoff and Mark Hall, Routledge, 2013, pp 209-224.
  4. The Role of Naturalness in Lewis's Theory of Meaning, Journal for the History of Analytic Philosophy, vol 1, number 10 (2013),
  5. Explanation, Idealisation and the Goldilocks Problem, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 86(2): 461-473.
  6. In Defence of a Kripkean Dogma (with Jonathan Ichikawa and Ishani Maitra). Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 85 (2012): 56-68.
  7. Humeans Aren't Out of Their Minds. Nous 41 (2007): 529-35.
  8. Doing Philosophy with Words. Philosophical Studies 135 (2007): 429-37.
  9. The Asymmetric Magnets Problem. Philosophical Perspectives 20 (2006): 479-92.
  10. Morality, Fiction and Possibility . Philosophers Imprint vol 4, no 3.
  11. Chopping up Gunk (with John Hawthorne). Monist 87 (2004): 339-50.
  12. Prankster's Ethics (with Andy Egan). Philosophical Perspectives 18 (2004): 45-52.
  13. What Good are Counterexamples? Philosophical Studies 115 (2003): 1-31.
  14. From Classical to Constructive Probability. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 44 (2003): 111-23.
  15. Nine Objections to Steiner and Wolff on Land Disputes. Analysis 63 (2003): 321-8.
  16. Intrinsic Properties and Combinatorial Principles. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (2001): 365-380.
Encyclopaedia Articles
  1. Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Properties. In Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy.
  2. The Problem of the Many. In Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  3. David Lewis. In Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
  4. Metaphysics. In Graham Oppy and N. N. Trakakis (eds.), A Companion to Philosophy in Australia and New Zealand.
Works no longer in Progress

Williams on Indeterminate Survival. JRG Williams has defended an interesting set of criteria for rational decision making in the face of indeterminate survival. I argue that the criteria are in a key respect too weak, and suggest a natural strengthening that yields more intuitive results.

Smith on Justification and Probability. Some comments on Martin Smith’s What Else Justification Could Be, with a suggested generalisation of his model of justification.

Do Judgments Screen Evidence? No. I argue that the answer ‘yes’ is needed to defend a number of distinctive theses in contemporary epistemology, and is false.

Easy Knowledge and Other Epistemic Virtues. Using a measuring device to test itself can never produce sensitive belief. Some philosophers also argue that it can never produce knowledge. I dispute this. I claim that the insensitivity of the outcome is a sufficiently bad outcome to explain our unhappiness with using a device to test itself.

Vague Events and the Problem of the Many. Slides from a talk setting out my current views on the problem of the many. I argue that we need something like vague objects to solve some forms of the problem of the many. I also argue that vague composition is unacceptable. I conclude that ordinary (i.e., vague) objects are really more like events than like mereological sums, and that hence worries about vague composition don’t apply to them.

Evidence Neutrality. Slides from a talk at the Arché summer school. The talk defends a methodological version of Evidence Neutrality.

Causation and Causatives. Slides for a talk I gave at UMass arguing that causatives (like killed or broke) are conceptually prior to our concept CAUSE. I’m not sure how much I believe the strong claims in the slides, but I hope to develop some version of this in the future.

A Reductio for Reliabilism. Hilary Kornblith has recently offered a defence of reliablism against bootstrapping arguments. He says that if reliablism is true, bootstrapping beliefs are not justified. I argue that he hasn't refuted the critics’ claim that if reliabilism is true, bootstrapping beliefs are unjustified. These two conditionals imply that reliabilism is false.

Defending Causal Decision Theory. I reply to the attacks on causal decision theory in Andy Egan’s Against Causal Decision Theory. I isolate the kind of example that is crucial to Egan’s argument, and the principle concerning such a case that he uses to attack causal decision theory. Then I argue that if we use that principle in making decisions between 3 choices (not just 2 as Egan primarily considers) we end up with absurd results.

Evidence ≠ Knowledge. I argue that only some of our knowledge, in particular only our knowledge that is obtained directly, is evidence, contra Williamson's view that all knowledge is evidence.

Rule-Following and Basicness. Building on some suggestions David Christensen has recently made, I suggest that we can use epistemic dilemmas as a diagnostic tool for determining which inferential rules are properly basic. I think this paper will eventually be split into two, one criticising Christensen’s development of some of his cases, and the other on rules. Some of this paper has been incorportated into Do Judgments Screen Evidence.

Moderate Rationalism and Bayesian Scepticism. I argue that an epistemologist who thinks (a) we can know a lot a priori about the nature of justification, but (b) we can't know anything a priori that could have turned out to be false, has no response to a certain sceptical argument based on Bayesian considerations.

Dutch Books and Infinity. Peter Walley argues that a vague credal state need not be representable by a set of probability functions that could represent precise credal states, because he believes that the members of the representor set need not be countably additive. I argue that the states he defends are in a way incoherent.

Game Playing Under Ignorance. In earlier work I argued that using ‘vague probabilities’ did not ground any argument for significantly adjusting Bayesian decision theory. In this note I show that my earlier arguments don’t carry across smoothly to game theory. Allowing agents to have vague probabilities over possible outcomes dramatically increases the range of possible Nash equilibria in certain games, and hence arguably (but only arguably) increases the range of possible rational action.

Morality in Fiction and Consciousness in Imagination. I argue that the cases that motivate the imaginative resistance literature show that there are some problems for David Chalmers's Zombie Argument.

Generality and Modularity. I outline a new solution to three pressing problems for reliabilism, the generality problem, the new evil demon problem and the problem of epistemic luck, based on Fodor’s theories concerning the modularity of mind.

Three Objections to Smith on Vagueness. Nick Smith recently defended a definition of vagueness in terms of blurred boundaries. I argue that (a) vague predicates need not haveany boundaries and hence no vague boundaries, (b) some vague predicates have lumpy rather than blurry boundaries and (c) some things that aren’t predicates are vague, so the definition won’t work.

Vagueness Without Toleration: Reply to Greenough. Patrick Greenough has argued that a predicate is vague iff it is epistemically tolerant. I show that there are some counterexamples to this analysis, and that it rests on some fairly contentious theories about the behaviour of vague terms in propositional attitude reports.

Growing Individuals and Temporary Intrinsics. I argue that ordinary objects are fusions of past and present, but not future, temporal parts. This theory provides the neatest solution to some puzzles concerning intrinsic properties, and is supported by some surprising linguistic data. (This paper is probably inconsistent with some other papers I've written, but the line it runs is at least amusing and original.)

Knowing and Understanding: Reply to Pettit (with Adam Sennet). Dean Pettit recently argued in Mind that understanding a word did not require knowing what it meant. Adam and I show that his core arguments, which mostly turn on showing that some particular cases are cases of understanding without knowledge, do not work.

Solving an Infinite Decision Problem. In a recent paper in Theory and Decision, Barrett and Artzenius propose a puzzle concerning a particular infinite series of choices. The puzzle turns out to be easy to resolve once we distinguish between use-value and exchange-value.

Conditionals, Predicates and Probability. Adams's Thesis is meant to explain our judgements about the validity of arguments involving conditionals. I note it goes wrong in some simple cases involving quantifiers.

Stages, Worms, Slices and Lumps. Assume, for fun, that temporal parts theory is true, and that some kind of modal realism (perhaps based on ersatz worlds) is true. Within this grand metaphysical picture, what are the ordinary objects? Do they have many temporal parts, or just one? Do they have many modal parts, or just one? I survey the issues involved in answering this question, including the problem of temporary intrinsics, the problem of the many, Kripke's objections to counterpart theory and quantifier domain restrictions.

Vague Decision Theory. Many smart people (and me) think that partial beliefs are best represented by sets of probability functions rather than single probability functions. There is no consensus as to how these sets of probability functions should enter into decision making. I survey the field, find all the proposals lacking, and suggest an alternative.

Doomsday and the Extinction of Baseball. John Leslie's Doomsday argument uses the frequency interpretation of probability to argue that the end of the universe is closer than we might have thought. Oh well - all the worse for the frequency interpretation.

Intuitions Seminar, Fall 1999

Week One: Introduction
Week Two: Psycho-Analysis
Week Three
: Eliminating Analysis
Week Four
: Physicalism and Entailments
Week Five
: What Analysis can do for You
Week Six
: The nature of counterexamples
Week Seven
: How to handle counterexamples
Week Eight
: Strategies for beating counterexamples
Week Nine
: Pragmatics, Metaphysics and Possibility
Week Ten
: Two-Dimensional Modality
Week Eleven
: Objections to Australian-style analysis
Week Twelve
: Ramsey sentences and Moral Realism
Week Thirteen
: More on moral realism

Notes Towards an Abandoned Vagueness Book, Spring 2002
Introduction and Many-Valued Logics (Last updated February 27 2002)
(Last updated January 14 2002)
The Epistemic Theory
(Last updated March 2 2002)
Vagueness, New York Style
(Last updated February 28 2002)
Australian Theories: Messing With Logic
(Last updated January 13 2002)
The Context Did It
(Last updated March 31 2002)
Vagueness and Pragmatics
(Last updated January 13 2002)