3 Obstacles For Research About Cheating & Morality

What if traveling abroad were somehow bad for you? Well, a series of studies seem to find that “[traveling abroad] can lead to [lying and cheating] by increasing moral relativism” (Lu et al 2017, 1, 3). This finding has just the right combination of intuitive plausibility and surprise for us to want to share it uncritically. So, instead, let’s take a look at the methods, measures, and philosophical nuances of the topic. As usual, a bit of reflection makes the finding a bit less exciting and it reveals a need for follow-up research.

Continue reading 3 Obstacles For Research About Cheating & Morality

Sexual Harassment Accusations & The Acceptance Principle

A public figure is accused of a sexual misdeed. You know nothing about the accused besides their name and their alleged crime. And you know nothing about the accuser except their name and their accusation. Can you believe the accuser? We often learn about such sexual harassment accusations. So it behooves us to find a principled response. The Acceptance Principle suggests that we can accept this kind of accusation. Why? I’ll explain in this post. Continue reading Sexual Harassment Accusations & The Acceptance Principle

Domain-familiarity & The Cognitive Reflection Test

This week I’m commenting on Nicholas Shea and Chris Frith’s “Dual-process theories and consciousness: the case for ‘Type Zero’ cognition” (2016) (open access) over at  the Brains blog. My abstract is below. Head over to Brains for the full comments and subsequent discussion.


Type 1 and type 2 cognition are standard fare in psychology. Now Shea and Frith (2016) introduce type 0 cognition. This new category of cognition manifests from existing distinctions — (a) conscious vs. unconscious and (b) deliberate vs. automatic. Why do existing distinctions result in a new category? Because Shea and Frith (henceforth SF) apply each distinction to a different concept: one to representation and the other to processing. The result is a 2-by-2 taxonomy like the one below. This taxonomy classifies automatic processing over unconscious representations as type 0 cognition. And, deviating from convention, this taxonomy classified automatic processing over conscious representation(s) as type 1 cognition.

REPRESENTATIONUnconsciousType 0?
ConsciousType 1Type 2

According to SF, we deploy each type of cognition more or less successfully depending on our familiarity with the domain. When we’re familiar with the domain, we may not need to integrate information from other domains (via conscious representation) and/or deliberately attend to each step of our reasoning. So in a familiar domain, type 0 cognition might suffice.

SF briefly mention how this relates to the cognitive reflection test (CRT) (Frederick 2005). There is a puzzle about how to interpret CRT responses that do not fit a common dual-process interpretation of the CRT. In what follows, I will show how SF’s notion of domain-familiarity can make sense of these otherwise puzzling CRT responses.


Image: “Wiffel ball” from Andrew Malone as modified by Nick ByrdCC BY 2.0


Why Critical Reasoning Might Not Require Self-knowledge

I recently reread Tyler Burge’s “Our Entitlement to Self-knowledge” (1996). Burge argues that our capacity for critical reasoning entails a capacity for self-knowledge.

Like a lot of philosophy, this paper is barely connected to the relevant science. So when I find myself disagreeing with the authors’ assumptions, I’m not sure whether the disagreement matters. After all, we might disagree because we have different, unfalsifiable intuitions. But if we disagree about facts, then it matters: one of us is demonstrably wrong. In this post I will articulate my disagreement. I will also try to figure out whether it matters. Continue reading Why Critical Reasoning Might Not Require Self-knowledge

The Meaning Problem & Academic Lexicons

Sometimes I spend days trying to figure out what someone means when they use an otherwise common word. I spend even more time trying to the difference between two authors’ use of the same word. It’s a problem. We can call this the meaning problem. In this post I talk about the meaning problem and some solutions. I think the best solutions would be open-source academic lexicons — i.e., lexicons for every academic field edited by academics from the corresponding field. But that’s a big ask, so I will also mention a couple other (partial) solutions as well. Continue reading The Meaning Problem & Academic Lexicons

Academic Fake News?

I was just on the I Can’t Believe It’s Not News podcast talking about fake news, academic fake news (e.g., fake conferences, scam publishers), open access publishing, and what it’s like to look like Neil Patrick Harris. I had a great time. The hosts, Beth and Elizabeth, are very fun and resourceful. You can preview and listen to the podcast below.


You can listen to the podcast in the player below. (In case you care, I join the podcast somewhere around 4:10 and leave around 52:30.)

Continue reading Academic Fake News?

What Does Christopher Peacocke mean by ‘Reflective Self-consciousness’?

Christopher Peacocke’s The Mirror of the World (2014) is largely about self-consciousness. In the book, Peacocke distinguishes “reflective” self-consciousness from other kinds of self-consciousness. Since my dissertation is about reflective reasoning, I want to try to understand what Peacocke means by ‘reflective’. In this post, I’ll unpack that.

For anyone who wants to read the relevant portions of Peacocke’s book, everything I discuss comes from chapters 9 and 10.

1. ‘Reflective’ and Mirrors

When someone says ‘reflective’ you might think of mirrors. Or, if you’re like me, you might think of a certain kind of reasoning. But if you’re Peacocke, then you might think of both.†

A drawing of a stick figure looking in a mirror.Start with mirrors. When we look into a mirror, we explain what we see in terms of our appearance. After all, our appearance in a mirror just is a reflection of our appearance. So mirrors allow us to become aware of our appearance from a third-personal point of view.

Similarly, we can become selfconscious third-personally. For example, when someone sees their facial reaction(s) on the Kiss cam, they might become aware that they are no longer excited at the prospect of kissing their partner in public.

But Peacocke wants to argue that we can also become self-conscious without this third-person point of view — without mirrors, so the speak. After all, Continue reading What Does Christopher Peacocke mean by ‘Reflective Self-consciousness’?