Thursday, 26 August 2010

Seeing reasons

Seeing reasons (Amy Kind on Jennifer Church): 
I can see the broken window, but can I also see why the window is broken?  In this ambitious and interesting paper, Church argues for an affirmative answer to this question.  Just as we can have perceptual knowledge of a state of affairs, so too can we have perceptual knowledge of the reason for that state of affairs.
Here is a key move:
Our experience of something as objective depends on our imagining alternative perspectives of it. Via the imagination, we can occupy perspectives and modalities different from the ones we are presently occupying, and it is these imaginings that serve to ground experiential objectivity.
The promise is to show that we can directly perceive reasons. Since the account entails that we automatically perceive alternatives, counterfactual accounts suddenly make all sorts of sense.

The challenge is to flesh out the mechanism in sufficient detail. (e.g., where do the alternatives come from? Plato's world of forms? Previous experience?)

In my view, explanation consists in the selection of one state of affairs from a specified set of possible states of affairs by giving evidence that meets specified acceptance standards. The key to understanding explanation, then, is in understanding how possibility spaces and acceptance standards are specified -- and these require a more detailed answer than Church seems to provide.

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