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David Thorstad
Vanderbilt University
  1. Inquiry and the epistemic.David Thorstad - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (9):2913-2928.
    The zetetic turn in epistemology raises three questions about epistemic and zetetic norms. First, there is the relationship question: what is the relationship between epistemic and zetetic norms? Are some epistemic norms zetetic norms, or are epistemic and zetetic norms distinct? Second, there is the tension question: are traditional epistemic norms in tension with plausible zetetic norms? Third, there is the reaction question: how should theorists react to a tension between epistemic and zetetic norms? Drawing on an analogy to practical (...)
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  2. There are no epistemic norms of inquiry.David Thorstad - 2022 - Synthese 200 (5):1-24.
    Epistemic nihilism for inquiry is the claim that there are no epistemic norms of inquiry. Epistemic nihilism was once the received stance towards inquiry, and I argue that it should be taken seriously again. My argument is that the same considerations which led us away from epistemic nihilism in the case of belief not only cannot refute epistemic nihilism for inquiry, but in fact may well support it. These include the argument from non-existence that there are no non-epistemic reasons for (...)
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  3. High Risk, Low Reward: A Challenge to the Astronomical Value of Existential Risk Mitigation.David Thorstad - 2023 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 51 (4):373-412.
    Philosophy &Public Affairs, Volume 51, Issue 4, Page 373-412, Fall 2023.
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  4. Against the singularity hypothesis.David Thorstad - manuscript
    The singularity hypothesis is a radical hypothesis about the future of artificial intelligence on which self-improving artificial agents will quickly become orders of magnitude more intelligent than the average human. Despite the ambitiousness of its claims, the singularity hypothesis has been defended at length by leading philosophers and artificial intelligence researchers. In this paper, I argue that the singularity hypothesis rests on scientifically implausible growth assumptions. I show how leading philosophical defenses of the singularity hypothesis (Chalmers 2010, Bostrom 2014) fail (...)
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  5. Why bounded rationality (in epistemology)?David Thorstad - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    Bounded rationality gets a bad rap in epistemology. It is argued that theories of bounded rationality are overly context-sensitive; conventionalist; or dependent on ordinary language. In this paper, I have three aims. The first is to set out and motivate an approach to bounded rationality in epistemology inspired by traditional theories of bounded rationality in cognitive science. My second aim is to show how this approach can answer recent challenges raised for theories of bounded rationality. My third aim is to (...)
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  6. The accuracy-coherence tradeoff in cognition.David Thorstad - forthcoming - British Journal for Philosophy of Science.
    I argue that bounded agents face a systematic accuracy-coherence tradeoff in cognition. Agents must choose whether to structure their cognition in ways likely to promote coherence or accuracy. I illustrate the accuracy-coherence tradeoff by showing how it arises out of at least two component tradeoffs: a coherence-complexity tradeoff between coherence and cognitive complexity, and a coherence-variety tradeoff between coherence and strategic variety. These tradeoffs give rise to an accuracy-coherence tradeoff because privileging coherence over complexity or strategic variety often leads to (...)
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  7.  93
    The scope of longtermism.David Thorstad - manuscript
    Longtermism holds roughly that in many decision situations, the best thing we can do is what is best for the long-term future. The scope question for longtermism asks: how large is the class of decision situations for which longtermism holds? Although longtermism was initially developed to describe the situation of cause-neutral philanthropic decisionmaking, it is increasingly suggested that longtermism holds in many or most decision problems that humans face. By contrast, I suggest that the scope of longtermism may be more (...)
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  8. Permissive Metaepistemology.David Thorstad - 2019 - Mind 128 (511):907-926.
    Recent objections to epistemic permissivism have a metaepistemic flavor. Impermissivists argue that their view best accounts for connections between rationality, planning and deference. Impermissivism is also taken to best explain the value of rational belief and normative assessment. These objections pose a series of metaepistemic explanatory challenges for permissivism. In this paper, I illustrate how permissivists might meet their explanatory burdens by developing two permissivist metaepistemic views which fare well against the explanatory challenges.
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  9. Three mistakes in the moral mathematics of existential risk.David Thorstad - manuscript
    Longtermists have recently argued that it is overwhelmingly important to do what we can to mitigate existential risks to humanity. I consider three mistakes that are often made in calculating the value of existential risk mitigation: focusing on cumulative risk rather than period risk; ignoring background risk; and neglecting population dynamics. I show how correcting these mistakes pushes the value of existential risk mitigation substantially below leading estimates, potentially low enough to threaten the normative case for existential risk mitigation. I (...)
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  10. Norms of inquiry.David Thorstad - forthcoming - Philosophical Topics.
    Epistemologists have recently proposed a number of norms governing rational inquiry. My aim in this paper is to unify and explain recently proposed norms of inquiry by developing a general account of the conditions under which inquiries are rational, analogous to theories such as evidentialism and reliabilism for rational belief. I begin with a reason-responsiveness conception of rationality as responding correctly to possessed normative reasons. I extend this account with a series of claims about the normative reasons for inquiry that (...)
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  11. Two paradoxes of bounded rationality.David Thorstad - 2022 - Philosophers' Imprint 22.
    My aim in this paper is to develop a unified solution to two paradoxes of bounded rationality. The first is the regress problem that incorporating cognitive bounds into models of rational decisionmaking generates a regress of higher-order decision problems. The second is the problem of rational irrationality: it sometimes seems rational for bounded agents to act irrationally on the basis of rational deliberation. I review two strategies which have been brought to bear on these problems: the way of weakening which (...)
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  12. Existential risk pessimism and the time of perils.David Thorstad - manuscript
    When our choice affects some other person and the outcome is unknown, it has been argued that we should defer to their risk attitude, if known, or else default to use of a risk avoidant risk function. This, in turn, has been claimed to require the use of a risk avoidant risk function when making decisions that primarily affect future people, and to decrease the desirability of efforts to prevent human extinction, owing to the significant risks associated with continued human (...)
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  13. Tough enough? Robust satisficing as a decision norm for long-term policy analysis.Andreas Mogensen & David Thorstad - manuscript
    This paper aims to open a dialogue between philosophers working in decision theory and operations researchers and engineers whose research addresses the topic of decision making under deep uncertainty. Specifically, we assess the recommendation to follow a norm of robust satisficing when making decisions under deep uncertainty in the context of decision analyses that rely on the tools of Robust Decision Making developed by Robert Lempert and colleagues at RAND. We discuss decision-theoretic and voting-theoretic motivations for robust satisficing, then use (...)
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  14. Against the newer evidentialists.David Thorstad - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (12):3511-3532.
    A new wave of evidentialist theorizing concedes that evidentialism may be extensionally incorrect as an account of all-things-considered rational belief. Nevertheless, these _newer evidentialists_ maintain that there is an importantly distinct type of epistemic rationality about which evidentialism may be the correct account. I argue that natural ways of developing the newer evidentialist position face opposite problems. One version, due to Christensen (Philos Phenomenol Res 103:501–517, 2021), may correctly describe what rationality requires, but does not entail the existence of a (...)
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  15. General-Purpose Institutional Decision-Making Heuristics: The Case of Decision-Making under Deep Uncertainty.David Thorstad - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.
    Recent work in judgment and decisionmaking has stressed that institutions, like individuals, often rely on decisionmaking heuristics. But most of the institutional decisionmaking heuristics studied to date are highly firm- and industry-specific. This contrasts to the individual case, in which many heuristics are general-purpose rules suitable for a wide range of decision problems. Are there also general-purpose heuristics for institutional decisionmaking? In this paper, I argue that a number of methods recently developed for decisionmaking under deep uncertainty have a good (...)
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  16. Tough enough? Robust satisficing as a decision norm for long-term policy analysis.Andreas L. Mogensen & David Thorstad - 2022 - Synthese 200 (1):1-26.
    This paper aims to open a dialogue between philosophers working in decision theory and operations researchers and engineers working on decision-making under deep uncertainty. Specifically, we assess the recommendation to follow a norm of robust satisficing when making decisions under deep uncertainty in the context of decision analyses that rely on the tools of Robust Decision-Making developed by Robert Lempert and colleagues at RAND. We discuss two challenges for robust satisficing: whether the norm might derive its plausibility from an implicit (...)
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