forum 5: week of 6 Feb. Hawthorne and lotteries

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Puzzles about belief and knowledge in connection with lotteries have been around for a while. But Hawthorne's contribution was to point out how similar some of the issues are to issues about skepticism. The common pattern is something (A) that we readily admit to knowing but which has as a consequence something (B) that we are reluctant to say we know. For this to be so, there have to be examples of A that do look like knowledge, and of B that don't.
So, which examples work for you?
And what conclusions about knowledge and the way we organize our beliefs does this push you towards?

04:38, 5 February 2012

If my desk, which I sat my computer upon last week and then typed an email at turns out to be a loaf of bread, which I then find, to my horror has been sliced up and turned into sandwiches, am I to believe it was not a) a real desk, but merely a 'desk facade,'or, alternatively and pre-sandwichhood it was b) not really a food item since it was obviously functioning as a desk last week? ( I have the photos on my cel to prove it:-) If I am caught in an earthquake and masonry and bricks are falling all about me, and I use a salad bowl for a safety helmet, is it a) a safety helmet or b) a salad bowl? Knowing there is 'something', we call it by how it functions as a piece of, and in, the big picture we call the world. As for lotteries: why would someone buy a lottery ticket if they were sure they wouldn't win? I can think of one possible and quite plausible reason. Lotteries raise money for some cause which a ticket buyer may support, but only as one among many contributors. Winning may be seen by the buyer as a harmless fantasy which can be indulged in, and serves the seller as a promotional nudge in the direction of chipping in to a cause which every ticket holder can feel is of collective benefit to all concerned. There are two opposed conflicted motives for participating in the game. The prize offered in a sense uses self interest against itself, to achieve a larger goal. That would be the 'real', sophisticated game as opposed to the more naive game of thinking that its all about me.It serves as a method to serve social need where the credo is looking out for number one. Winning would be the exception which proves the rule.

21:48, 6 February 2012

It seems as if Hawthorne addresses the tension between intuitions and the probabilistic reasoning towards the future. The lack of linkage between an 'ordinary proposition' and a lottery proposition explains the impossibility of knowledge of the future. Hawthorne's use of the divisions of epistemic space in his reasoning seems unsatisfying for some reason as an conclusive argument for refuting knowledge of the future or knowledge through deductive reasoning. Overall I agree with Hawthorne in rejecting parity reasoning, however it seems incomplete. It seems as if Hawthorne neglects to mention in the lottery propositions that speakers are actually aware they do not know their lottery propositions.

02:41, 7 February 2012

I concur on your point about Hawthorne's rejection of parity reasoning being incomplete! What's more is his mentioning duplicate reasoning IN PASSING - not going into details about duplicate reasoning (because it is "not our main topic here")! Why I dislike him only mentioning duplicate reasoning and not going into the details is because I agree with duplicate reasoning - this is the position I would take. Also, I just want to disagree with DeRose's comment on probabilistic thoughts being forced upon us. Anyone else disagree with DeRose's comment (top of page 26 in the chapter we are reading)?

Dorothy, why do you think Hawthorne's use of the divisions of epistemic space in his reasoning is unsatisfying as an conclusive argument for refuting knowledge of the future or knowledge through deductive reasoning? It seems like you are on to something, and I just want to see if you can spell it out in more detail. After all, this forum is one place where we can share our ideas with one another.

01:00, 8 February 2012
 
 

Hawthorne (at least not in the sections that we are reading) doesn't really address the issue of positive claims of knowledge that can counter the B claims before they are even brought up, as in the example of "faux zebra-stunt-double mules" and a visiting zoologist that DeRose brings up in his paper. The visiting zoologist has enough knowledge in his field to be able to tell that the creature in front of him is indeed a zebra, and not a zebra disguised as a mule, even if the latter possibility is brought up to his attention. The zoologist's belief concerning the genuine nature of zebras would then be a sensitive one. Consequently, (B) is still knowledge in the case of the zoologist, because it would be a lot harder to fake specific characteristics of a zebra aside from its peculiar coloration. Granted, this could lead down a slippery slope of measures of expertise in certain fields, which could then bring us back to justified true beliefs, but I think this issue is an important one in DeRose's distinction between "simple skeptics" and "AI skeptics", and, since Hawthorne takes DeRose's argument into account, it is interesting that he doesn't mention such a crucial part of it in his paper.

08:33, 7 February 2012
 

It seems to me that the reason we are so hesitant to admit that we know we will not win the lottery is that we are putting effort into the process. Our goal in buying a lottery ticket is to win, so we refuse to admit defeat by claiming that we know we will lose. This contrasts with the case of the African safari because in that case we are not making an effort to save up money or find a higher paying job. I think if someone played the lottery daily, with the goal of going on an African safari in mind, they would not say that they knew they would not go on an African safari.

20:21, 7 February 2012
 

So he's got: A(for sure), A->B, -B(not for sure). In relation to just the safari heart attack scenario, A is knowledge about a plan you have made, so that knowledge is self dependent. B not a piece of knowledge that is dependent on your volition, so it is of a different quality, it is more alien to your perspective then is A. This is the reason A is proposed with confidence while B is proposed with apprehension. The middle inference still makes sense, but it does not create a logical paradox by transitioning certainty into uncertainty, A and B have their qualities all along.

04:11, 8 February 2012
 

I cannot bring myself to approve of most of the examples that Hawthorne supplies beyond, perhaps, his example including eating salmon. There seems to me a slippery trick in connecting a "now" proposition with a "then" proposition as we continually do. The little word "will" makes such a difference, as does the difference between have and am! That I have hands is indisputable, regardless of whether or not I am also a brain in a vat. That I will tend the dog tomorrow does not hinge on whether or not I have a heart attack tonight. I understand that in epistemology we're not interested in collapsing wave fronts and following branches of time, but each of Hawthorne's examples seems to do just that without actually solving the issue of how to travel forward and back along the correct timeline and stay in the correct possible world!

04:56, 9 February 2012
 

I cannot bring myself to approve of most of the examples that Hawthorne supplies beyond, perhaps, his example including eating salmon. There seems to me a slippery trick in connecting a "now" proposition with a "then" proposition as we continually do. The little word "will" makes such a difference, as does the difference between have and am! That I have hands is indisputable, regardless of whether or not I am also a brain in a vat. That I will tend the dog tomorrow does not hinge on whether or not I have a heart attack tonight. I understand that in epistemology we're not interested in collapsing wave fronts and following branches of time, but each of Hawthorne's examples seems to do just that without actually solving the issue of how to travel forward and back along the correct timeline and stay in the correct possible world!

04:56, 9 February 2012

The examples that work for me as examples that look like knowledge, and as examples that don’t look like knowledge, are those expressed in Paragraph 563 of On Certainty, a publication of material written on twenty sheets of foolscap, and written in small notebooks, that Dr. Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote in the last year and a half of his life:

563. “One says ‘I know that he is in pain’ although one can produce no convincing grounds for this.—Is this the same as ‘I am sure that he…’?—No. ‘I am sure’ tells you my subjective certainty. ‘I know’ means that I who know it, and the person who doesn’t are separated by a difference in understanding. (Perhaps based on a difference in degree of experience.) “If I say ‘I know’ in mathematics, then the justification for this is a proof.

“If in these two cases instead of ‘I know’, one says ‘you can rely on it’ then the substantiation is of a different kind in each case. “And substantiation comes to an end.”

07:36, 9 February 2012
 

Can we please make sense of the Closure principles of Hawthorne's paper.

17:13, 9 February 2012
 

I found most of Hawthorne's examples to be fairly similar with some small variations. They all seemed to serve the same purpose of demonstrating what he sees as our intuitive ways of reasoning (duplicate and parity reasoning). If we are to accept these types of reasoning as intuitive, which seems to me permissible in most cases, it leads to the conclusion that people are just inherently bad at probabilistic reasoning. Assuming it is equally unlikely that I will go on an African safari next week as it is that I will win the lottery, a subject should be just as willing to say that they know either case will or won't obtain.

22:10, 12 February 2012
 

The philosophers we have read thus far in the course seem to be extremely focused on common-sense intuitions, and hold it as the standard against which philosophical arguments are to be judged. This is especially true of Hawthrone, and this, I think, leads to the main problem I and others have with his argument.

To put it succulently, the whole argument seems unnecessary. Sure, he points out some epistemological quirks in our intuitions. Our intuitions aren't at all coherent in many cases, and tends to lend itself differently as the circumstances vary. People seem to disclaim certain knowledge involving probabilities while whole-heartedly embracing others.

But while I think such observations are interesting, but I can't seem to tease our further philosophical implications from it. Can't the simple explanation that people are incompetent at estimating probabilities, and that they are pushed and tugged in all directions randomly by their unconsciousness, be sufficient reason? After all, we don't make such a big fuss over other gross misestimations by people.

I seem to recall that Professor Morton mentioned in class that philosophy is all about the price of your belief. Well, then in this case, we've simple established a gross mis-pricing, and either one price has to rise or the other price has to fall.

04:29, 13 February 2012
 

I feel like there is a difference between the example of winning a lottery and having a heart attach or inheriting money from a dead family member and I am going to explain why? He uses the safari example and he says because i know i will not have enough money to go on the safari then he knows that he will not win a lottery. And since no one can know this then he can NOT know that he will not have enough money to go on the safari. In fact he MAY win the lottery and go on the safari. See I don't think someone who has purchased a lottery ticket can actually say they KNOW they will not will in because they MAY and hence they cannot make conclusion about this which are related to winning the ticket. (like going away on a safari). What i mean is that a person therefore cannot know that they will or will not have money to go on a safari if they have bought a ticket for a lottery. However i don't think it is the same with the heart attach situation. If i plan on going away to the safari tomorrow I can SAY that regardless of the fact that i may have a heart attack and actually not go. Because in the position which i was in when i made that assertion i have every right and reason for making it and KNOWING it. If we consider all the possibilities and things that could happen to prevent our knowledge then we would not have knowledge of anything. Because even the zoologist could in fact be deceive if someone had drugged him or if someone was just that good at disguising a mule. So the state you are in when u make an assertion of knowledge matters. If you have no reason to think you will have a heart attack tom or no reason to think it is a mule you can say you know....or at least you are in a better position than the person who has bought a lottery ticket because that person in their present situation that they are about to make the assertion that they will not go on the safari in fact knows they have bought a ticket so they must keep the in might and therefore cannot concluded they will NOT will or will not Go on the safari. In order to say you know something you must consider all the facts present to you NOW. One can never predict the future so anything is possible but i think we can say we know things (if nothing out of the ordinary happens-based on our reasons) and later turn out to be wrong. But if we were wrong because there were facts which we didn't consider and should have and if we did would not have believed that then i don't think we can say that we in fact did know that-we did NOT know that. Hope that makes some sense :s

00:13, 8 March 2012
 

Having gone over the paper again tonight, I cannot help but still be almost entirely befuddled what the authors are trying to say. Either their thesis is horribly complex, and I do not understand any it of. Or (more likely) they have taken obfuscation to a completely new level. Sometimes, when I read their paper, I get the eerie impression that their veneer of semantic acrobatics hides a pretty simple truism about science. You do not know what you do not know. Do you do not know what you do not believe, etc. If that were the case, it's just basic epistemology. They could have done just as well with a venn diagram showing beliefs, truth, and knowledge.

05:33, 8 March 2012