Monday, December 18, 2006

The Philosopher's Carnival #40

Welcome to this 40th edition of the Philosopher's Carnival! I highlight some of the many great posts appearing across the web these past few weeks:

The Wages of Ignorance has a terrific post on method. A taster: 'What I really like about Williamson's armchair philosophy though is not just its insistence on rigour, persistence, and patience in using our philosophical methods, but that we must embrace an accompanying intellectual honesty in evaluating how far we have fulfilled the requirements of good philosophical work'.

Thoughts, Arguments, and Rants goes after category mistakes. The discussion is great, although I am not surprised to discover the Wikipedia gets it wrong!

The Splintered Mind has some wonderful reflections on Chalmers and modal rationalism. A taster: 'Now, actually, I’m quite happy with that, but I’m not sure Chalmers should be, and it isn’t the tenor of The Conscious Mind as I read it. And if materialism is true, then I’d say it’s not -- or shouldn’t be -- construed as a metaphysical thesis at all, but rather as a scientific thesis, a claim only about the “laws of nature”, and not a claim about Kripkean “a posteriori metaphysical necessity” or the like'.

Are democracy and liberalism inseperable? There is a debate here at Blackthumb. Hmmm. My view? Well, I had thought Zakaria had conclusively shown that illiberal democracies exist all over the world. If so, democracy and liberalism are at least distinct. Thus, the two can (and do) come apart. The discussion is interesting with great comments. Elsewhere, we find debates on problems between power and liberty well worth a look as well. The n-Category Cafe looks at MacIntyre on rational judgement that will be of interest, too.

Brains has interesting thoughts on heterophenomenology (did I get the spelling correct...?!). An excerpt: 'We can (defeasibly) infer whatever (descriptions of) mental states our best evidence tells us we can infer. It may be that we infer (descriptions of) beliefs, but we may also infer (descriptions of) desires, chunks of information stored in working memory, conscious experiences, or whathaveyou. If we infer (descriptions of) beliefs, our descriptions may or may not match the subject’s descriptions, and the same is true of any mental states. For instance, when my daughter tells me she is not hungry, I rarely if ever infer that she has a belief that she is not hungry (as mandated by HF). Sometimes I infer she is not hungry, whereas other times I infer she doesn’t like what she is eating. It depends on what other evidence I have. Furthermore, I have evidence that my inferences are pretty reliable, even though they go beyond what HF allows (though in other ways, they are more prudent). In short, what data about mental states we extract from first-person reports should depend on the total evidence we have (linguistic, behavioral, and neurological)'.

PrawfsBlawg has some teriffic posts on shame punishment, including here, here, here, and here. For those still open to shame punishment, see my papers on Nussbaum either here or here.

Over at the Leiter Law Reports, Leiter posts a wonderful paper on interdisciplinary appointments in law. I strongly encourage readers to see this and the ensuing discussion. Apt comments follow over at meditations71 as well.

Is the blogosphere imploding? One should definitely check out this post and discussion over at Crooked Timber on this.

What about Chinese philosophy in the US? The Leiter Reports has an excellent post and discussion here. My view? Well, as our world continues to shrink, philosophers everywhere will simply have to learn more about each other's tradition. Today, few programmes seem to teach Chinese (or other Asian) philosophy. I doubt this can remain the case in twenty years.

Other fine posts around the web:

Larry Solum on path dependency--an excerpt: 'The phrase "path dependency" is used to express the idea that history matters--choices made in the past can affect the feasibility (possibility or cost) of choices made in the future. This entry in the Legal Theory Lexicon introduces this idea to law students, especially first-year law students, with an interest in legal theory'.

Brood comb on familiar faces -- an excerpt: 'This a priori relation of possibilities is there, be it if what we characterize as two is in front of us, or if as in the case with the experiment done with the kids mentioned in the other post, one or both of the things are tracked (as hidden behind the screen), or even if we have imaginary gestalt. This is, I think, what is behind our intuitive understanding of what we express by 1+1=2. The equation shouldn’t be taken as identifying two separate sides, namely a)1+1 and b)2 , but as expressing that the whole, if it is characterized as two, can be also characterized as one and another one. The identity is in the whole, and the equality is expressing the necessity that in every possible world the whole which is 2, is also 1+1 and vice versa'.

Lemmings on context sensitivity---a taster: 'What would a normal or standard location be anyway? To account for the 'the evening sky' part it thus seems that we need to contextualize after all. Perhaps a mixed approach will do. On a mixed approach, 'x is the brightest object in the evening sky' is true at a scenario iff x is the brightest object to a standard observer located at the center under standard conditions. Even though we appeal to the center here, we do not run into trouble, as the analysans is a modal claim'.

Knowability looks at 'taking epistemology seriously': 'You might think that I’m illicitly assuming that for any pair of consecutive rows the question ‘Do they have the same alethic status?’ has an answer. Sadly, no! Most everyone will agree that ‘true’ goes in the first row, and they’ll agree that ‘Do the first and second rows have the same alethic status?’ has an answer: ‘yes, they do have the same status’. And most everyone will agree that that ‘Do the second and third rows have the same alethic status?’ has an answer: ‘yes, they do have the same status’. It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going. If one is like Michael Tye, for instance, one will agree with what I just said about the first three rows, but one will hold that ‘Do the nth and (n + 1)st rows have the same alethic status?’ sometimes has an answer but sometimes it doesn’t. Fine: when does it first not have an answer? We know it has answer for the first three rows. Does it first fail to have an answer for rows 10,000 and 10,001? Then that’s our sharp cutoff. That is, whereas the pumpkin claim was true and not false when evaluated with respect to S10,000, there is no answer to whether it’s true and not false when evaluated with respect to S10,001.Eventually, we take seriously both epistemicism and nihilism!'

If we blog alone in the forest and no one reads it, does it exist? I suppose the answer is 'yes' if God takes a peek. Of course, that requires that God exists... Speaking of God, have a problem with the Ten Commandments? Then you will appreciate Phil for Humanity's post here.

A puzzle on fictional names is discussed over at 'what is it like to be a blog', not a bat. An excerpt: 'Now I agree with Woods that there is a difference between fictional entities and nonesuches like the present King of France. I think there is a genuine puzzle here which cries out for explanation. I am not sure how to approach explaining this puzzle. I’m happy to hear what you, dear reader, think'.

Frankipedia argues that all existence is linked to technology here. Problems with evolutionary psychology are discussed here.

Matrix fans will enjoy this post from neurophilosopher.

Honourable mention goes to Hell's Handmaiden, the Voltage Gate, Balanced Life Center, and Sportive Thoughts. Let me also acknowledge this post on multiple selves.

I would also like to note a new blog I have just discovered, Epistemic Virtue, cared for by the great Duncan Pritchard. It is well worth a careful look!

Finally, Julius Speaks mentions the top ten books to influence him. When I think about the top ten books to influence me, I immediately think of certain historical texts (in no particular order):

1. Plato's Republic
2. Hobbes's Leviathan
3. Locke's Letter (oooh, I hear you all say--not the Two Treatises..? Well, if it was a top 11...)
4. Kant's Groundwork
5. Kant's Metaphysics of Morals
6. Hegel's Science of Logic
7. Hegel's Philosophy of Right
8. Mill's On Liberty
9. Green's Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation
10. Bosanquet's Philosophical Theory of the State

Yes, yes, I know: millions of others belong in such a list as well. However, when I think of a top ten since, I am more likely to name papers by folks such as Martha Nussbaum, Bob Stern, Leif Wenar, or maybe Fabian Freyenhagen, rather than books. The times they are a-changin'. Articles seem the way to go these days. We all know classic papers that become important books, but it's through papers we often make our names, not books. That is one sign o' the times. (How often do you catch Prince references in a philosophy post...?!?!)

The 41st edition of the Philosopher's Carnival will take place in 2007 at Westminster Wisdom. Many thanks for taking the time to drop by the Brooks Blog. I hope you come back again!

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