Welcome to the 147th edition of the Philosophers’ Carnival here at Philosophy & Polity! There are some really great posts, running the gamut of everything from philosophy of religion to the intersections of philosophy and science. For whatever reason, this edition seems to have tended toward normative posts. Enjoy!
Kicking things off, Rebecca Roache over at Practical Ethics asks why photographs hold such a hallowed position as the most preferred medium of representation in “Why a Painting is as Good as a Photo on a Passport.” She writes:
For whatever privileged epistemic status photographs may enjoy over other means of pictorial representation is compromised by the process of photograph selection and approval used in passport and driving licence applications. As a result, there seems no obvious case against using handmade pictures (or, rather, photographs of them) in those documents. If the Identity and Passport Service is willing to rely on human judgments about whether photographs are good likenesses of the people they depict, why not also accept handmade pictures judged by the same people to be good likenesses?
On the slightly related note of appearance and perception, S.M.E. over at Rational Conceits offers a treatment of some of the issues concerning our reliance upon our sense organs in order to delineate real and illusory perceptions in “On the Meaning of Veridicality in Perception.” He writes,
Nevertheless, certain of our experiences, such as illusions and hallucinations (as well as dreams and religious mystical experiences), may be regarded as more subjective and idiosyncratic and less veridical than others and so it is reasonable to ask what separates these two classes of experience that they qualify for different linguistic labels. The answer lies in the spatial locus of the stimulation or energy that initiates the experience, where in space the experience is localized, and also in the fact that each Homo sapiens brain is, with slight exception, a virtual replica of every other.
Continuing in a similar vein of truth and proof, Catarina over at M-Phi discusses the usage and usefulness of indirect proofs in “A Dialogical Conception of Indirect Proofs.” She writes,
If we accept that indirect proofs are a bit of an oddity even within mathematics, it makes sense to ask how on earth this argumentative strategy might have emerged and established itself as one of the most common ways to prove mathematical theorems. Now, as some readers may recall, my current research project focuses on ‘the roots of deduction’, adopting the hypothesis that we need to go back to deduction’s dialogical origins to make sense of the whole thing (as discussed here, for example). And here again, it seems that the dialogical, multi-agent perspective offers fresh insight into the nature of indirect proofs.
Switching gears, at his eponymous blog Ex-Apologist offers a survey of criticisms of Plantinga’s account of warranted belief in “What’s Wrong with Plantinga’s Proper Functionalism?” He says,
With respect to his accounts of warranted theistic and Christian belief: (i) His analysis of warranted Christian belief can’t adequately account for the variability of belief among Christians; (ii) his postulation of a sensus divinitatis in human beings is at odds with the empirical evidence regarding the demographics of theistic belief; and (ironically) (iii) his account entails that the belief of most Christians has little by way of warrant. And of course there’s (iv) the Great Pumpkin Objection. But deeper problems lie with his basic account of warrant.
Sticking with the theme of philosophy of religion, we move on to Helen De Cruz’s post “The Experiential Problem of Evil and Theodicy,” over at Prosblogion. Concerning the litmus test for theodicies, she writes,
Theodicies should not only offer a solution to the abstract problem, but should withstand scrutiny in the face of concrete, horrible instances of evil. and it seems that in concrete cases, theodicies not fare well. For it is one thing to argue that God did not intend the world as a pleasure-garden, but a challenging place fit for spiritual growth (as Hick proposed), quite another to maintain this in the face of concrete instances of evil.
Changing things up again, we move on to Peter Hurford’s post “Good and Ought as End Relative” over at Greatplay.net where he argues that “ought” may be defined such that it refers to the likelihood of something meeting a standard. On this he writes,
I also have proposed a definition of “ought” (and its cousins “can”, “could”, “might”, “may”, “should”, “will”, “must” and their related negatves) as a modal auxilary verb that expresses a likelihood of something being the case, including the likelihood of something meeting a standard. Both of these linguistic views also neatly account for distinctly moral goodness and moral commands as another standard to compare or express the likelihood of meeting. This view of “good” and “ought” is called end-relational theory, because it proposes that “good” and “ought” bothrelate things to ends, or standards of comparison.
Continuing in the normative vein, Eric Schwitzgebel at The Splintered Mind asks whether ethicists who advocate a certain position ought, in some sense, to live out such a position in “Animal Rights Advocate Eats Cheeseburger, So…What?” He concludes,
The ethicist is not setting aside her opinion that eating meat is wrong as she eats that cheeseburger. She does in fact conclude that eating the cheeseburger is wrong. However, she is unmoved by that conclusion. And to be unmoved by that conclusion is to fail in the first-personal task of ethics. A chemist who deliberately causes explosions at home might not be failing in any way as a chemist. But an ethicist who flouts her own vision of the moral law is, I would suggest, in some way, though perhaps not entirely, a failure as an ethicist.
Lastly, Lukeprog over at LessWrong argues that philosophy education is focusing on out-dated arguments and we should instead model our system of education on science in “Train Philosophers with Pearl and Kahneman, not Plato and Kant.” He writes,
Philosophical training should begin with the latest and greatest formal methods (“Pearl” for the probabilistic graphical models made famous in Pearl 1988), and the latest and greatest science (“Kahneman” for the science of human reasoning reviewed in Kahneman 2011). Beginning with Plato and Kant (and company), as most universities do today, both (1) filters for inexact thinkers, as Russell suggested, and (2) teaches people to have too much respect for failed philosophical methods that are out of touch with 20th century breakthroughs in math and science.
That’s it for this edition of the Philosophers’ Carnival! The next edition, No.148 will be hosted at In Search of Logic on February 10th. You can submit posts for consideration, either your own or someone else’s here. See you then!
I’ve unfortunately had to abstain from blogging for almost two months now, for what [I think] are some very good reasons. Not only did I recently relocate, I did so in order to pursue my MA in philosophy at the University of Houston. Between settling into the area and acclimating myself to the schedule of being a student again I have had little time for updates, but hopefully now they will be more frequent. Also, I know a promised a new layout and in the next month or two I will be working with a local web designer to update the site!
Looks like I have missed a bit of a shakeup with regard to the Philosophers’ Carnival. As readers know, I have hosted two Carnivals in the past, with the last in January of 2012. Apparently a mistake on the part of a recent host resulted in a very low-quality Carnival that failed to feature some legitimate submissions, and instead highlighted some very bad posts. As a result of this, it seems Brian Leiter has ceased publicizing the Carnival. Perusing Leiter Reports did not turn up a concrete post indicating this, but I did notice the last Carnival Leiter officially linked to was the April 2nd Carnival hosted by David himself.
Richard Yettier Chappell has handed the reins over to Tristan Haze at Sprachlogik, who will now be in charge of coordinating the hosting of the Carnival. You can find Tristan’s post explaining the switch here which is where I gleaned most of this information. While Tristan notes that the reason Leiter stopped linking was a decline in quality, I am a bit puzzled by this given the strength of Carnivals #140, 141, and 142. With regard to the controversy, it does seem like an honest but unfortunate mistake on the part of the host, and he has left up the post to take ownership of it which I respect. If anything, this indicates that the Carnival may be in need of a better vetting procedure for future hosts in order to insure that the host can handle the volume of submissions, adequately judge what is spam or has no business being posted, but also who have enough time in the blogosphere to know where to look for quality posts if the submissions run a little dry.
I am glad to see the Carnival continuing, and Tristan makes some good points about its scope and future. I will toss in my two cents and say I think all members of the philosophy blogging community need to embrace and popularize the Carnival more than they have in the past if they expect it to garner a strong reputation for rigor. For my part, I will be linking to each Carnival when it goes up, and will continue to submit posts and host when possible. To that end…
Tristan Haze pointed out that he has started an updated blogroll of active philosophy blogs, which can be found here. Thanks again, Tristan, for all of your hard work on the carnival already!
Welcome to the January 30th, 2012 edition of the Philosophers’ Carnival! The goal of the Carnival is to highlight the best and most engaging blog posts in the area of philosophy – we have a lot of great submissions, so let’s dig in.
Clayton over at Think Tonk brings us a pithy post on a lack of evidence for evidentialism. Clayton argues that there exist instances wherein a person could in good faith believe she has good reason to believe that she is warranted in believing p all the while lacking sufficient evidence for believing p. There is also a valuable exchange in the comments section of the post. An excerpt from the main post:
Here, now, is my anti-evidentialist argument. William has sufficient justification to believe that he permissibly believes that he permissibly believes God exists. William, however, does not have sufficient evidence to believe that God exists. So, according to [the positive accessibility thesis], it is permissible to believe without sufficient evidence. According to the evidentialist, it is never permissible to believe without sufficient evidence. Thus, the evidentialist view is mistaken.
Following in the vein of beliefs, Jim over at Agent Intellect presents an explication on the differences between traditional Global Skepticism ala Descartes and Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism. While he admits there is a measure of truth in likening the EAAN to Global Skepticism, he claims they differ substantial ways:
Plantinga’s EAAN is significantly different from classical global skepticism. First, we do not have to have a reason for a belief if it is properly basic, and such a belief can constitute knowledge even if we don’t know that we know it. We are justified, or our beliefs are warranted, up until the point where we have a reason for thinking them to be false. The EAAN provides just such a reason: if naturalism is true, then it is improbable or inscrutable that any given belief would be true. After this, the EAAN has the same effect as the more traditional global skeptical arguments: any reason you can give for a particular belief is itself subject to the EAAN and is therefore not trustworthy. There is no stopping the rot once it’s started. Indeed, part of the genius of Plantinga’s argument is that it amounts to a global skeptical argument that arises from within externalism.
Injecting a little bit of Hume into the mix, Maryann from the Examiner discusses the is-ought distinction, arguing that for an ought statement to be true there must exist some being to which that statement corresponds/describes, but which does not justify the statement. An excerpt from the piece:
Translating from epistemology back over to ethics, there needs to be a real ought in order for there to be moral knowledge, but 1) the real ought is not justified by its correspondence to reality—that would be saying its correspondence justifies its correspondence (begging in a circle) and 2) a particular ought is not made to correspond by its justification—that would be like saying that the act of believing made something real to believe in (also begging in a circle). No, there must be ‘both’ justification ‘and’ correspondence. If one or both is lacking (by depending on the other, or for some other reason), knowledge is lacking.
Occasional Philosophy has an interesting re-imagining of Tegmark’s Quantum Suicide thought experiment, which traditionally limits hypothetical conclusions to the experimenter only. Instead, the author proposes the Quantum Homicide thought experiment, which allegedly allows outside observers to draw conclusions about many-worlds vs. Copenhagen interpretations of quantum mechanics. A snippet of the proposed tweak:
The Quantum Homicide thought experiment proposes a modification to the gun used in the experiment. In this case, if the particle is measured as spin up then the gun fires and kills the experimenter, just as before (in fact, the killing of the experimenter isn’t necessary for the experiment to work but I prefer the aesthetics of the continuity between the quantum suicide and quantum homicide cases). On the other hand, if the particle is measured as spin down then the gun fires a time travel ray, sending the experimenter one day into the past.
Noah Greenstein, the eponymous curator of Blog of Noah Greenstein, discusses the role emotional states play in hindering our reasoning. Based on this, he introduces the Future Rationality Cone, which attempts to include emotion and thought in predicting the relative rationality of future beliefs by way of their distance, as it were, from other beliefs:
Considering a person’s consciousness at some point, we can map what we consider rational and irrational based upon the potential mood and thought changes. Any possible future belief (a combination of thought and mood) will be a combination of changes in prior moods and thoughts. Beliefs that require too great a change in both thought or mood may be outside the realm of rationality for a person, while beliefs that require little effort will fall within the realm of rationality. Hence, the rationality cone.
Lewis from the group blog The Mod Squad tackles Leibniz’s views on the worth of “blind thought” i.e. cognition concerning signifiers absent an apparent regard for the signified, offering up a contrast between Locke, Berkeley, and Hume concerning blind thought:
This discussion, in which Leibniz first introduces blind thought, occurs in the midst of Leibniz’s commentary on Locke’s views on power and freedom. Specifically, it appears that Leibniz introduces the notion in response to Locke’s view that the main determinant of the will is not the prospect of a greater good, but instead, some strong present unease…As suggested by the initial illustration of algebraic reasoning, Leibniz’s stance on blind thought is not that it is always problematic. In a later discussion, relating to the purpose and origins of language, Leibniz suggests that blind thought can be of great utility.
Switching gears ever so slightly, Greg at Cognitive Philosophy expounds on the potential threat to ethics posed by genetic modification (given a biologically contingent definition of ethics).
Changing the types of biological organisms that we are could conceivably change what is or is not right to do in any particular situation. It might change the very people that we should be striving to be. Yes, it’s unlikely we’ll change ourselves to the point where harming others is a good thing (though not impossible), but to what degree our systems of ethics will have to change is not something we can predict in advance. Now, let me be clear. I’m not making the naturalistic fallacy (or at least I’m not trying to). My point is that facts about our biology and psychology are going to *constrain* our ethical theories, not wholly *determine* them. Ethics is tricky business. Philosophers have been arguing about it for thousands of years, and while we all have some intuitive notions of what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong, we’re certainly not anywhere close to having all the answers. Changing who we are as human beings will cause us to have to rethink some problematic notions.
Richard from Philosophy, et cetera discusses what he views as major lacunas in a recent argument against immigration that attempts to use environmental concerns to justify its position. He argues that general increases in human welfare outweigh any alleged damage to American wages, and similarly that if anything, mass immigration highlights rather than hides fundamental issues in countries facing an exodus:
Stepping back: If we want to get the most welfare “bang” for our ecological “buck”, barring the global poor access to economic opportunities is surely not the way to go. (It’s less extreme than outright killing them, but I think ultimately misguided for fundamentally similar reasons.) We should strive for improved efficiency in less humanly damaging ways: emissions taxes, reduced animal (esp. cattle) farming, increased urban density / efficient transit, etc. Not to mention investing in scientific research to uncover new solutions — investments which are more easily made by a wealthier, better educated populace.
Assorted Topics: Logic, and our lack of Kants
On the Logic side of philosophy, Tristan at Sprachlogic serves up a new notation for propositional modal operators. He seeks to answer the following by way of introducing a new notational method:
It is common to see the following list of four modal operators presented, sometimes as though it were exhaustive: possibility, necessity, contingency and impossibility. But reflect again that, of these four modalities, possibility is an odd one out, since it is non-commital on truth-value. Also, note that systems have been developed where other operators, e.g. one for non-contingency, are taken as primitive. This can give rise to an uneasy, lost feeling. Are the usual four modal operators just a hodge-podge? What modal operators are there (could there be)? Is there a systematic way of producing them all? And is there then a systematic way of determining logical relations between them?
Concerning philosophers themselves, Eric at Splintered Mind discusses the charge that specialization in contemporary philosophy signals the demise of interdisciplinary giants, using Kant as an example. An excerpt:
Consider by century: It seems plausible that no philosopher of at least the past 60 years has achieved the kind of huge, broad impact of Locke, Hume, or Kant. Lewis, Quine, Rawls, and Foucault had huge impacts in clusters of areas but not across as broad a range of areas. Others like McDowell and Rorty have had substantial impact in a broad range of areas but not impact of near-Kantian magnitude. Going back another several decades we get perhaps some near misses, including Wittgenstein, Russell, Heidegger, and Nietzsche, who worked ambitiously in a wide range of areas but whose impact across that range was uneven. Going back two centuries brings in Hegel, Mill, Marx, and Comte about whom historical judgment seems to be highly spatiotemporally variable. In contrast, Locke, Hume, and Kant span a bit over a century between them. But still, three within about hundred years followed by a 200 year break with some near misses isn’t really anomalous if we’re comparing a peak against an ordinary run.
-I regret to say that Common Sense Atheism is closing its digital doors, as it were. The site will remain as an archive, and the site’s author, Luke Muehlhauser, will be continuing his work in the area of artificial intelligence.
-Peter Ludlow discusses the implications of a hypothetical dissolution of the APA, courtesy of the Leiter Report.
-Gary Gutting, frequent contributor to the New York Times, discusses the purpose of philosophy in our current climate. I highlight this Stone article in particular because I don’t imagine there is a single reader who has not had to brave such questioning!
-Neal Tognazzini at Flickers of Freedom celebrates the 50th anniversary of P.F. Strawson’s Freedom and Resentment. The College of William & Mary will be hosting a two-day conference examining themes across his work.
-Daniel Dennett has been awarded the Erasmus Prize 2012. The 2012 award celebrates those who have promoted “the cultural meaning of the natural sciences.”
-Matthew Mullins at Prosblogion posts on the John Templeton Foundation’s open online submission cycle for funding inquiries. The areas of focus are philosophy and theology.
Philosophy & Polity will be hosting the upcoming January 30th, 2012 edition of the Philosophers’ Carnival! I am very glad to be hosting the Carnival once again, and I look forward to providing an even stronger Carnival than my last hosting.
This edition is open to submissions from any area of philosophy, but preference will be given first and foremost to submissions that are academically oriented but still accessible to an interested lay-person. Additionally, submissions in the following areas are especially welcome:
Philosophy of Action
Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy of Religion
To submit, please use the new submission form on the Carnival website, which can be found here.
I will be hosting the January 30th, 2012 edition of the Carnival, so please see the Call for Submissions here.
Welcome to the October 10th, 2011 edition of the Philosopher’s Carnival! The goal of this Carnival is to highlight the best and most engaging blog posts in the area of philosophy, and I have opted to showcase academically oriented posts. There are some really exciting discussions going on, so let’s get started!
Philosophers’ Carnival #132
First up, Thomas Rodham presents Democracy is not a truth machine posted at The Philosopher’s Beard. Rodham broadly argues that the idyllic spirit of liberal democracy (aiming for truth through public debate, discourse, and referendum) obscures the line between subjective opinion and objective fact. Here’s a snippet:
But opinions, whether ethical precepts like ‘don’t lie’, religious beliefs like ‘Jesus loves you’, or literary judgements like ‘Ulysses is the best book ever written’, have the peculiar character of being part of the human world, not about the objective world. In this important sense they are quite different from objective truths, such as rational truths (as produced by rational enquiry, such as science) or facts (such as historical events). As Hannah Arendt noted in Truth and Politics*, these have quite a different epistemic status in which whether or not people believe in them is quite irrelevant (sorry, post-modernists and social constructivists). That makes their evaluation quite different from opinions, which are assessed in terms of how agreeable they are to us. Objective truths are not amenable to democratic debate or discussion since whether or not people agree with them or not is quite irrelevant.
Continuing in the vein of opinion versus fact, Luke Muehlhauser presents Philosophy by Humans, 1: Concepts Don’t Work That Way posted at Common Sense Atheism. Muehlhauser seeks to advance two claims: first, that conceptual analyses, in the form of crafting definitions containing necessary and sufficient conditions, is part and parcel to traditional and contemporary philosophical discourse, and second, that such an approach to philosophical discourse is threatened by recent advances in neuroscience surrounding the way the human brain classifies objects and categories. Intricately researched, here is a taste:
Category-membership for concepts in the human brain is not a yes/no affair, as the ‘necessary and sufficient conditions’ approach of the classical view assumes. Instead, category membership is fuzzy. Another problem for the classical view is raised by typicality effects …[where] people agree that some items are more typical category members than others, but do these typicality effects manifest in normal cognition and behavior? Yes, they do.
Next up, in a brief post concerning epistemology, Richard Chappell presents The Kripke-Harman Dogmatism Paradox posted at Philosophy, et cetera. Chappell offers a common-sense response to the Kripke-Harman dogmatism paradox (wherein the revision of beliefs regarding facts about the universe seems impossible given that the original affirmation of fact F ought to incline us to disregard future evidences against F, since we already know it to be true) and the comments section develops quite nicely. Chappell adds to the traditional response:
You’re only justified in believing that ‘any evidence against h is misleading’ insofar as you’re justified in believing that there isn’t any such (sufficiently weighty) evidence against h. After all, if there were sufficiently weighty evidence against h, then that’d undermine your basis for believing h, and hence for believing that the evidence against h is misleading. And, indeed, that’s exactly the position you end up in if such evidence later comes to light.
Moving away from epistemology, but sticking with avoiding a potential paradox, Vihvelin Kadri presents Time Travel: Horwich vs. Sider posted at Vihvelin.com. The most recent iteration in a longer conversation, Kadri offers some points of clarification in the ongoing debate surrounding the nature, possibility, and constraints surrounding time travelers, murder, and altering the past. Specifically, Kadri argues that in this context it is inappropriate to replace indicative conditionals with counterfactual conditionals:
We are not ordinarily entitled to infer, from the truth of an indicative, to the truth of the corresponding counterfactual, and Sider gives us no reason to think we are entitled to infer from ‘if many many time traveler go back in time…, there will be a long string of co-incidences’ to ‘if many many time travelers went back in time…there would be a long string of co-incidences.” On the contrary, we have reason to suppose that ‘counterfactuals of co-incidence’ are false, at least for the general case of time travelers trying to change the past (eg. by killing babies before the day of their death). For if it really is just a co-incidence that all actual attempts by time travelers to kill their targeted babies have been thwarted by banana peels, etc., we have no grounds for supposing that counterfactual attempts would also fail due to thwarts. Only lawlike generalizations sustain counterfactuals; accidental generalizations do not.
Changing gears to Philosophy of Mind, Eric Schwitzgebel presents Dualists’ Troubles with Common Sense posted at The Splintered Mind. Schwitzgebel begins with the recent evidence that most ordinary views of human agency are inherently dualist and goes on to ask why, if dualism is common sense, dualist metaphysical pictures are frequently so strange and counter-intuitive. He quickly covers the problems of interaction and reductionism, as well as the difficulties in qualifying the entities who would and would not possess powers of agency. He concludes:
Any well developed metaphysical substance dualism must make choices on such matters. And all the choices seem weird. If you think otherwise, I suspect philosophy has dulled your sense of what’s weird. But weird does not imply false! We have good independent reasons to think, on physical and cosmological grounds, that the world is a pretty weird place, not well matched with our commonsensical intuitions about what must be so.
Continuing in the line of Philosophy of Mind, Neil Levy presents Libertarian Physics posted at Flickers of Freedom. Levy questions the line of reasoning an incompatibilist might follow in order to endorse a libertarian worldview and underscores the dubious nature of arguments that place epistemic weight upon subjective perceptions of freedom. As is par for the course, there is an excellent discussion in the comment section following the post. Here is a snippet from Levy’s post:
In their paper, Nahmias et al. take issue with the libertarian description of the phenomenology of action, and call for a more detailed investigation. I have a different view. I don’t much care what the phenomenology of action is (in this context), because I doubt very much that careful attention to this phenomenology can bear on premise (2) [cited earlier]. We have no reason to think that the content of our phenomenology can give us evidence about the causal structure of the universe, because we have no reason to think that the phenomenology is veridical.
Philosophy News, etc.
And now for some short plugs/re-posts on updates in academics and other philosophy-related events in the blogosphere, courtesy of some submissions as well as links culled from other blogs:
-The winners of the 3 Quarks Daily 2011 Philosophy Prizes are in, and the submissions were judged by none other than Patricia Churchland. Check out her reflections on the posts, as well as links to the winners, here.
-Good news for fans of Experimental Philosophy: Oxford University Press is starting up a new series entitled Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy. Some information can be found here, and here is the Call for Papers for those so inclined.
-Two prominent philosophers, Patricia Churchland and Ned Block, have been elected as 2012 Fellows of the Cognitive Science Society.
That wraps up this edition of the Philosophers’ Carnival. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out the Carnival’s website to see who’s hosting the next edition!
The Philosopher’s Carnival #124 is up over at Philosophy@Utah State, with their leading question being “whether neuroscience explain mentality?” I am proud to report that my post “Libet Revisited: Reduction and Prediction in Neuroscience” over at the Florida Student Philosophy Blog was featured in this latest edition! I am very glad my post was selected and included in this round of the Carnival, and I hope to be able to submit more posts in the future.
Please check out the other featured Carnival posts at Philosophy@Utah State, as well as posts from my fellow contributors over at the FSPB. I know we all put a lot of hard work into our posts, so feedback is always welcome!