Ok, not bad, though the averages dropped a bit from the last one mainly because of Questions 4 and 6. Click through to see…


  • Question 1

Option D (“Gene”) only. Most of you (90%) got this.

In order for the exchange between Lena and Will to count as a genuine disputation (in the sense defined in the class), their claims cannot both be true and cannot both be false (Slide #17). While the two claims (Lena: “No states have political authority!” Will: “All states have political authority!”) cannot both be true, they can both be false–when some states have political authority, and some don’t. So, Gene is right, Dave is wrong, and Tess is also wrong. Abe is wrong–the definition given didn’t say anything about needing the claims to be ‘backed by reason’. Tess was right in saying that there wasn’t a genuine disputation between Lena and Will, but she had provided the wrong reason for why this is so. 


  • Question 2

Option D (“Neither Abe, Dave, nor Gene are correct”). Most of you (80%) got this.

Abe is wrong because Epistemic Uniqueness says that there is only one belief which is rationally justified a body of evidence; this isn’t about the truth of each belief.

Dave is wrong because Epistemic Permissivism only says that two opposing beliefs can sometimes be justified (Slide #38), but not necessarily all the time or in all situations. It’s not clear that Lena and Will’s dispute is one of those cases.

Gene is wrong because, if Lena and Will are not in a genuine disputation, then either their positions can both be true, or it can be such that neither of their positions are true. It won’t follow from this that just because they are not in a genuine disputation, there will be a “third alternative”–that will be the case only if their disagreement is of the “can be neither” kind. Basically, what you want to notice is that what Gene said is the equivalent of “This isn’t a genuine disputation” is a sufficient condition for “there is a third alternative, i.e., agnosticism.”

(Note that as described, their positions are in a disputation–and agnosticism does not say that their positions can both be true or both be false. It merely suspends judgement and does not make a stand on whether or not each position is true, i.e., it doesn’t want to be part of the disputation at all. Explanation updated.)


  • Question 3

Option D (“None of the above”), and most of you (72%) got this, though some (20%) were distracted by Option A (“Abe”).

The scenario gets a bit complex so I’ve provided a break down earlier here. Let’s go through each.

Abe is wrong. Indeed, if both Lena and Will can never have the same evidence, then they can never have opposite but equally justified beliefs on the same evidence. But it remains possible that Lena and Will come to share the same evidence–Will might become religious himself!

Dave is wrong since the permissivist would only beg the question against both of them if he needs them to be rationally committed to the claim that the opposite claim is true, or even that there is epistemic duty to believe the opposite claim. But he only needs them to concede that the opposite claim is not irrational. (See also Slide #39.)

Tess is also wrong because even if Epistemic Uniqueness is true in this context, the possibility that other permissive domains exist remains open. 


  • Question 4

Option B (“Exactly 1”), and only a minority (27%) got this. Most of you (“Exactly 2”) picked Option C (“Exactly 2”).  Please do revise what it means for an argument to be sound, and what a sufficient condition is.

Gene: “If having a ‘made-up mind’ about any claim (i.e. strongly believing in any claim) is a sufficient condition for having knowledge about that claim, then, contrary to Zhuangzi’s argument, it is still possible for the parties in a disputation to have knowledge (in their respective claims) even when they do not have justified beliefs in those claims.”

Gene is right–if strongly believing in any claim is already a sufficient condition for having knowledge about that claim, then, it is still possible for the parties in the disputation to have knowledge even when they do not have justified belief–i.e., as long as the parties in the disputation strongly believe in their claims, and strongly believing in a claim doesn’t count as justification.

Lena: “If Zhuangzi’s tetralemma argument is invalid, then his argument from disputation is definitely unsound.”

Lena is wrong. If the tetralemma argument is invalid, then it is unsound. This means that the argument for Premise 2 of the Argument from Disputation (Slide #27) is unsound. But does this definitely show that the Argument from Disputation itself is unsound? No, it doesn’t, since it doesn’t show that Premise 2 is false, for instance. Remember that from just “an argument for P” is unsound, you can’t properly infer “P is false”.

Tess: “If “interesting disputations”, i.e., those between equally sharp people equally ‘backed by reasons’, almost never occur, then Zhuang Zi’s argument from disputation is unsound.”

Tess is also wrong. If the scenario almost never occurs, it might make Zhuangzi’s argument irrelevant. But that won’t make it unsound. In fact, the argument technically doesn’t even assume that such disputations actually arise.


  • Question 5

Option C (“Lena and Tess only”). Almost all of you (95%) got this–good job!

Lena’s statement is true by definition: A belief is not justified if it is positively irrational.

Tess is correct because, even though we usually think of beliefs based on what happens in our dreams as being irrational, this is an empirical claim. It is still possible that someone’s dreams have premonition and could end up being a rational process which justifies our beliefs–if it’s possible that we can reliably predict things using our dreams, as she puts it.

Dave is wrong, firstly because it’s not obvious that Gene has a false belief, even it has a tiny chance of being true. Secondly, even if that belief is false, it could still be the case that the belief is justified, so Dave’s reasoning that the belief is unjustified because it’s false is wrong.


  • Question 6

Option D (“Neither Joan nor Cain”), and only a minority (16%) got this. The majority (62%) selected Option A (“Joan only”); followed by (18%) Option C (“Both Joan and Cain”). This means that Joan was the major distractor for 80% of you.

The Astronaut’s Cousin: “Will you stop arguing that the Earth is square? I had enough with you. I don’t care if you read it in the Square Earth Society newsletter, how could you even possibly believe that? Do I have to remind you that my cousin is an actual astronaut? He went to space, and saw the curvature of the Earth with his own eyes. One thing for sure is that the Earth is not square.

The Square-Earther: “You choose to believe your cousin, I choose to believe my own sources of information. The blogger I follow never went to space, he might not be an expert on the question, but I just like what he says. The Earth is square.”

From the above, we can see that the two are in a genuine disputation as Mozi would define the term, and judging from the returns, the majority got this part.

Joan: “Mozi would say that the two of them are in a “disputation” over whether the Earth is square. But he also thinks that a necessary condition for having a justified claim in such a context is for the parties to have their claims measured by a (shared) standard of assessment. Since the two parties aren’t subjecting their claims to such a standard, Mozi would definitely say that this disputation is interminable and neither party has a justified claim.”

Joan is correct that they are in a “disputation” over whether the Earth is square. But she is wrong to conclude “Mozi would definitely say that this disputation is interminable…” Presumably, Mozi can take ‘credible eye-witness testimony’ as an appropriate standard of assessment to evaluate both their claims–remember his EVIDENCE gauge from the reading? The issue isn’t whether the two disputants are “subjecting” their own claims to a common standard; rather, it’s whether a common standard can be found to measure both claims (see Slides #16-20; also pp. 2-5 of the reading). If we go by the EVIDENCE gauge, then the Astronaut’s cousin’s belief conforms to the astronaut’s testimony but not the Square- Earther’s belief.

Cain: “For the disputation between the astronaut and the blogger, then, given his Argument from Disputation, Zhuangzi would definitely say that no justified belief is available, since all they have are firm convictions (“made up minds”), and that doesn’t count as justification for belief.”

Cain is wrong. The astronaut and the blogger are not having an interesting disputation of the kind that is covered by the Argument from Disputation since they are not epistemic peers each with a claim backed by reason.

I’m a bit surprised by this one.


  • Question 7 

Option A only; a majority (64%) got this.

“What if two bloggers, equally sharp and conscientious, each with an advanced degree in astrophysics from a equally reputable graduate programs were to disagree over an enduring debate in the field: the proper way to determine the Hubble constant (i.e., the unit of measurement used to describe the expansion of the universe). Let’s say that one believes that a certain method for calculating the Hubble constant provides the correct rate of expansion, while the other argues that the same method will provide an incorrect answer. If both of them are equally backed by reasons, how could their dispute ever be resolved?”

A: First of all, if Epistemic Uniqueness is true in all domains, the disputants cannot rationally arrive at opposed beliefs.

This one is true given the definition of Epistemic Uniqueness. Almost all of you saw that (97%), which is good.

B. However, if Epistemic Permissivism is true and cosmology is a permissive domain, then both of their beliefs could, in fact, be true.

This is clearly wrong since Epistemic Permissivism is about the rationality/justifiability of beliefs, not truth (see Slide #39). Most of you (10%) got this.

C. If Epistemic Permissivism is true and cosmology is a permissive domain, then the disputation between the two is rationally resolved.

This is wrong–even if both belief happen to be rationally permitted, the disputation is not rationally resolved since it’s not as if one side came out the winner (see Slides #20; 40). 25% of you selected this.

D. If Epistemic Permissivism is true and if cosmology is a permissive domain, then the disputants definitely cannot beg the question against each other.

D is false, the disputants could still be begging the question against each other if their own justification assumes the falsity of the other side or if they are saying that the other side is rationally required to believe their claim. Again, almost all of you (94%) got this.


  • Question 8

Option B (“Exactly 1″); most of you (90%) got this.

The relevant people are Dave, Abe, and Gene. They are commenting on these two:

“Lena believes that it is morally permissible to consume factory-farmed meat. She thus argues that since eating factory-farmed meat is morally analogous to eating at Fred’s, it’s morally permissible to eat at Fred’s. (Take that, Norcross! –she says.)”

“Will also believes that it is morally permissible to consume factory-farmed meat. Growing up, he has always been taught that eating meat is good for his health. And his diet is never short of yummy meat from the supermarket.”

Dave is correct. Lena is basically taking the Texan’s Challenge as if an argument for her position and against Norcross–she is thus begging the question against Norcross.

Abe is incorrect as the reason given is an explanation for why Will has that belief rather than a justification for the belief (or why he’s epistemically ok to believe as he believes).

Gene is also incorrect. Even if what the two said is true, it won’t follow that both of them are also justified in their beliefs. This also follows from the fact that Abe’s statement is incorrect.