Hello, and welcome to the 7th Philosophers' Carnival. We are sorry for the delay, but the holidays, and if I were to guess, the end of the semester (for many of us) led to a shortage of submissions. However, we now have several great posts for your reading pleasure. They range from a look at Hume's analysis of analogy to a discussion of cutting edge theory of truth. If you're looing for good philosophical discussions in the blogosphere, then look no further.
Before we get started, we should all give a nod of appreciation to Richard. He keeps the Carnival rolling pretty much on his own. Without him, there would be no Philosophers' Carnival. So, if you enjoy these regular collections of quality philosophical posts, then you should let him know. If you don't enjoy them, well, what are you doing here?
Now, back to business. It seems appropriate to start with the historical because, well, that's where things start. From there, we'll journey around the world of blog philosophy, and hopefully at the end of the trip, each of us will have found something that piques our interest, raises interesting questions, or forces us to see things in a new way. That's what philosophy is for, right? In case you don't want to read through all the summaries, at the end, you will find each of the links without descriptions. Enjoy.
We have two history of philosophy posts, one on Hume and one on Ockham's Razor. We'll start with Hume
On the Humean Analysis of Analogy
At Siris, we have this wonderful look at Hume's view of analogy.
Tucked away at the very end of Treatise 1.3.12 we find Hume's analysis of analogy.This analysis is concerned with Hume's treatment of philosophical probability, as Brandon notes:
Philosophical probability for Hume consists essentially in imperfect causal reasoning; it is distinguished from causal proof, which occurs when we are dealing with something that happens in exactly the same way with perfect regularity. Obviously, there are many cases in which we don't have such ideal conditions to go on, and this is where philosophical probability comes in. In philosophical probability, either the resemblance or the regularity (constancy of the conjunction of events) are imperfect. This brings us to the Humean analysis of analogy.Brandon then uses three "pregnant" sentences from the treatise to launch his discussion:
1. In those probabilities of chance and causes above-explain'd, 'tis the constancy of the union, which is diminish'd; and in the probability deriv'd from analogy, 'tis the resemblance only, which is affected.
2. Without some degree of resemblance, as well as union, 'tis impossible there can be any reasoning: but as this resemblance admits of many different degrees, the reasoning becomes proportionably more or less firm and certain.
3. An experiment loses of its force, when transferr'd to instances, which are not exactly resembling; tho' 'tis evident it may still retain as much as may be the foundation of probability, as long as there is any resemblance remaining.
You probably think you know Ockham's Razor, but you're likely to learn something new about it in this excellent post from Studi Galileiani. For instance, did you know that the principle commonly stated as
Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem (“Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity”).is not explicitly stated in the writings of Ockham himself? I didn't. Hugo writes:
Although referred to as Ockham’s Razor after William of Ockham, a Franciscan living at the turn of the fourteenth century, this version has not be found in any of his extant works. The closest match (Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora or “It is pointless to do with more what can be done with fewer”) may have been written in quoting others, and indeed the general principle was common among Aristotelians. In brief, the advice is that we should not invoke entities in explaining a phenomenon or developing a theory that are not necessary to do so.
In addition to this interesting piece of trivia, Hugo writes on "the principle, its domain of application and some associated philosophical concerns, using examples from the history of science to illustrate some of the points at issue."
From history, we move on to ethics, policis, and religion, on which we have some great posts.
God the Utilitarian?
Is God a utilitarian? Well, perhaps he should be.David Hunter of Prosblogion writes:
Most of us are aware of the argument from evil and the various wranglings associated with it for example the debates about whether God could create free willed beings who would always chose to do the good. These debates are typically metaphysical debates about theodicies. Theodicies however are less commonly challenged on ethical grounds, to give one example it is rare for proponents of the argument from evil to respond to the free will theodicy (roughly the claim that the existence of evil is justified because it is a necessary consequence of having free will which is a great good) with the claim that free will doesnt really have great value.
I want to suggest that actually moral issues and particularly the moral presuppositions of theodicies need to be investigated further. For example I argue that many theodicies will only succeed if something like consequentialism/utilitarianism is true.
Act vs. Rule
It may not be the case, however, that something like consequentialism/utilitarianism is true. Most of you are probably familiar with the common objections to utilitarianism. In a very nice post at Orange Philosophy on one of the common utilitarian responses, which reads:
It's not about what acts in particular lead to the best consequences in terms of happiness and unhappiness (or substitute your own intrinsic goods if you want to expand this to a more general consequentialism). The original theory put it that way, but what we really ought to do is look at which types of act will tend to produce good results.Jeremy Pierce argues that the "act/rule distinction often used to protect ethical theories from standard objections is a complete mistake." He writes:
I have two problems with this. First, it seems to do as much damage as it saves. Second, it isn't at all clear what this is supposed to look like, because rules turn out to operate on a continuum from very specific rules to more general rules. It causes as much damage at is saves for the very reasons that utilitarianism is supposed to do better than theories like Kant's when Kant's absolutism seems wrongheaded.
In Defense of Almeida and Oppy
Back to discussions of God, free will, the problem of evil, and morality, Clayton Littlejohn considers whether there are goods that justify God's lack of intervention. In a recent paper, Almeida and Oppy have argued that
if there were goods that justified God's refraining from intervening, there should be goods that would justify our refraining. As there are no such goods, there is no justification for God's refraining and the argument from evil is up and running.Littlejohn defends this argument against objections made by Trakakis and Nagasawa, which he summarizes with the following:
[I]n virtue of his role, there are role-relative goods that justify God refraining that wouldn't justify our refraining.Littlejohn ultimately concludes that
The upshot is that at best, T and N leave the theist unable to square their theism with the claim that God is benevolent. That leaves them in bad shape, what with theism entailing that God is benevolent.To see how he gets to that conclusion, read the post. It's well worth it.
Determinism and Disneyland
Are determinism and free will compatible? This is one of the most hotly debated topics in philosophy today, and while some have used the Frankfurt examples to attempt to solve the problem, Neal Tognazzini tells us at The Garden of Forking Paths that we would do better to look to Disneyland examples. He writes:
Determinism, I think, is less like a Frankfurt-style counterexample and more like Disneyland. Let me explain.
You know that Disneyland ride where you get into a car that's fixed to a track and then you ride around on the car? Well, every time I go there I always have to fight to get the seat with the steering wheel. (We all want to be the driver, don't we?) And occasionally I succeed, and I get to pretend like I'm driving the car. Of course, I'm not actually driving the car, and I realize this.
But now suppose that I don't know that the car is on a track, and in fact I think that I am controlling the car. I turn the steering wheel to the right when I come to a turn, and (what do you know?) the car goes to the right. I have no idea that I didn't have any effect on the direction that the car turned. It seems to me that this is what determinism would be like, if it were true.
Is this picture of determinism compatible with free will? Neal thinks not. Read the post to see why.
Burton Dreben is known for believing
Philosophy is garbage. But the history of garbage is scholarship.Or
Nonsense is nonsense, but the history of nonsense is scholarship.In response, John Rawls writes:
The crucial questions in understanding Burt's view are: What is philosophical understanding? What is it the understanding of? How does understanding differ from having a theory? I wonder how I can give answers to these questions in my work in moral and political philosophy, whose aims Burt encourages and supports. Sometimes Burt indicates that my normative moral and political inquiries do not belong to philosophy proper. Yet this raises the question. Why not? And what counts as philosophy?Brian Leiter (who is responsible, indirectly, for the square quotes around the word "analytic," by the way) wonders what philosophers think about this. Read the whole post, and let him know in a comment.
Realistic Utopia, a fantasy?
For more on Rawls, we turn to Joe of Oohlah's Blog-space. He writes:
Some may object to Rawls's idea of a reasonably just constitutional democratic society by insisting that this type of society is purely fantasy. Dreadfully evil events, like the Holocaust and the Inquisition for instance, prove that the hopes expressed by Rawls's realistic utopia are fantastic.Joe doesn't think that Rawls' responses to these objections work. Do you agree? Read the post and decide.
Equality of Opportunity One and Two
There is a distinction between "equality of opportunity" and "equality of outcome," and in the first of two posts at the popular new blog Left2Right, Don Herzog writes:
Equality of opportunity is great; equality of outcome -- somehow trying to ensure that everyone crosses the finish line together, or that everyone earn $28,967 a year, live in an 1100-square-foot apartment, and have 2.28 children -- is wildly unjust and tyrannical.
But how do we ensure equality of opportunity without moving toward the tyranny of equality of outcome? This is the question Herzog addresses in these two posts. He notes that
It's not enough to stop handicapping some runners and privileging others. Equality of opportunity seems to depend on some version of equality of starting points.but
Equality of starting points can't literally mean identity of starting points, for the same reason that equality of outcomes is repulsive. No one in his right mind should want to homogenize schools, communities, and the like, and anyway it's impossible. So in the usual story line, which I'm mechanically following -- and which you are obviously free to challenge -- the best interpretation of equality of starting points is setting some decent minimum or floor below which no one may fall. There's endless room for disputes in various domains about where that floor is. But I'll 'fess up: it seems to me we're not meeting it.In the second post, we get a closer look at where Herzog feels this floor lies, and how he thinks we should meet it, starting with the extension of "antidiscrimmination norms." In the process of sketching his own view, he defends it against some libertarian objections. Once again, this is a post that should spark a lot of thought and discussion, so go read and discuss it.
Starting from a quote
Lexicographic orderings crumble in the face of scarcity.Glen Whitman of Agoraphilia writes about ethics, law, and political economy. The point of the quote, he writes, is that
Lexicographic value or preference orderings may seem sensible in the face of small trade-offs, but they become highly implausible in the face of large ones.
Whitman believes that this fact has implications for a broad range of philosophical problems and views. For instance, in response to a common example used in arguments against utilitarianism, he writes:
The insistence that you should never kill an innocent, regardless of the consequences, amounts to a lexicographic preference that places first priority on the number of people you kill, and only second priority on the number of people who get killed by others.
He offers similar responses to cases of "lexicographic preference" in property law, and the ordering of rights.
Considering the following view of wellfare:
DF: A person is well-off to the extent that their desires are fulfilled.Richard of Philosophy, etcetera considers several objections to the view that DF, which stands for Desire Fulfillment, provides an adequate account of human flourishing. After attempting to address each of these objections, Richard writes:
I'm attracted to the theoretical simplicity of DF, but concerned that it may prove too simple to do justice to our wide range of intuitions about welfare and human flourishing. However, the general 'desire fulfillment' approach is very flexible, so I think most of the challenges can be successfully met by modifying or clarifying aspects of the theory, as I attempted to do in my responses above. (I'd be very curious to hear how convincing others found these objections and my responses.) But of course too many complications would negate the original appeal of the theory. Perhaps my desire for an elegantly simple theory of welfare is not one that can be fulfilled?What do you think? Can DF work? Does it need some supplementary propositions? Read Richard's post, and let him know what you think.
Ethics and Neurology
In the last post on ethics, religion, or politics (last not for any reasons related to its quality, as each of the posts is of a high quality, but because it provides a nice lead-in to the next series of posts), Brian Weatherson writes at Thoughts, Arguments, and Rants that when relying on intuitions to do ethics, the sorts of scenarios you consider are important. In particular, life-and-death situations might yield intuitions that are incompatible with those we derive from more ordinary situations. What does neurology (or neuroscience) have to do with this? Brian writes:
Bracketing the details of the cases for now, it’s worthwhile to stop back and reflect on what this should tell us about methodology. In particular, I want to think about what would happen if we found out the following things were true.As you might imagine, and as Brian notes, the third of these is a bit of an oversimplification. Still, he uses it to make the point that we may need to adjust our methodologies when doing ethics if different types of scenarios produce neurological responses that differ in theoretically-relevant ways.
* Systematising intuitions about life-and-death cases supported moral theory X
* Systematising intuitions about everyday cases supported moral theory Y, which is inconsistent with X
* The reason for the divergence is that different parts of the brain are involved with forming moral intuitions about everyday cases as compared to life-and-death cases; everyday cases are handled by a part of the brain generally associated with cognition, life-and-death cases by a part of the brain generally associated with emotional response.
From ethics and related topics, we move on to epistemology, where we find three excellent posts on relatively different topics. Let's start with naturalized epistemology.
Brian Weatherson's post raises the question of the importance of empirical evidence in epistemological methodologies in ethics. At Majikthise, Lindsay Beyerstein addresses the same question for epistemology in general.
Some traditionalists argue that empirical data are at best peripherally relevant to epistemology. They acknowledge that specific claims to knowledge are dependent, as a contingent matter of fact, on the reliability of the psychological processes that generate and sustain them, but they maintain that these details are relatively unimportant to epistemology.Lindsay explicitly states something that Brian's post hints:
Traditionalists argue that the real philosophical action takes place at the conceptual level. They argue that we must understand concepts like "knowledge" and "justification" by consulting our intuitions about the conditions for the proper applications of these concepts. The critical tests are thought experiments with N's of 1. Philosophers reflect on paradigm cases and attempt to recognize the factors that, say, differentiate knowledge from mere true belief. Then they test out their conditions by trying to formulate counterexamples in which the proposed criteria are met but the concept can't be applied.
This kind of philosophical methodology makes a lot of empirical assumptions about human cognitive capacities of the philosophers undertaking the analysis. We take ourselves to be analyzing the ordinary concept of knowledge.Lindsay argues that recent data from experimental philosophy research call this assumption into question. Instead of using these traditional methods, we should adopt a naturalized approach to epistemology, ala Quine. She concludes:
From cognitive psychology we learn more about how human beings, ourselves included, learn and reason. By observing scientific practice and reflecting on scientific methodology, we observe the expansion of empirical knowledge. When we reflect on questions of justification, we must do so in light of our understanding of ourselves as limited, embodied beings. The validity of our methods depends on our ability to rule out or compensate for certain limitations or distortions imposed by our own cognitive makeup.As a cognitive psychologist, I couldn't agree more! But you may disagree. Read the post to see her complete argument, and decide for yourself.
Mike of Desert Landscapes gives us a look at a new theory of truth, alethic functionalism. He writes:
Michael Lynch has recently argued for a new and interesting theory of truth, Alethic Functionalism. Alethic Functionalism holds that truth is a multiply realized property. It is an inflationary account and seems to combine positive features of both pluralistic and monist theories.
He contrasts this new theory with traditional correspondence and coherentist theories, listing the advantages of this new theory over the old. I would offer more of a summary, but the post relies heavily on an analysis of several propositions, and I'm simply not bright enough to summarize it without detailing them all. So, to learn about this interesting new theory, you will have to read the whole post yourself.
The Value of Knowledge and Being in a Position to Know
Is there a difference between the value of knowledge and mere true belief? Jon Kvanvig addresses one answer to this question in a post at Certain Doubts. The position is as follows:
Suppose S knows that p and S’ only believes truly that p. S is thereby in a position to know things that S’ is not in a position to know. The proposal is that this difference explains the difference in value between knowledge and (mere) true belief.Jon raises the following concern with this position:
Take the range of claims you’re in a position to know in virtue of knowing p. Suppose that you know all of these truths. Then compare knowing all of these truths with only believing them and being right.
Jon claims that the proposal only works if the range of claims is non-insular, i.e.
[C]oming to know something that one is in a position to know may enlarge the class of things one is then in a position to know.
Finally, we have one post on the teaching of philosophy.
End of semester wrap-up
Adam Potthast of Metatome wants philosophy instructors to discuss what worked, and what didn't, in the courses they taught this semester. He offers his own experience, and invites you to do the same. In my mind, this is one of the best ways for academics to use the blogosphere.
So, there you have it, the 7th Carnival. As promised, I'll end with the links to each of the posts above, without summaries. However, before I do that, I want to make one more editorial comment. To this point, the Carnivals have been getting very good posts from amateurs and professionals alike, but there is something lacking. While Brandon of Siris has given us consistently good posts on the history of philosophy, almost all of the other submissions have come from within what I will call, for lack of a better label, the "analytic" tradition. I think, and I'm sure others, even many of those who prefer analytic philosophy, would agree, that the lack of submissions from areas of philosophy that have traditionally been considered "continental" or "historical" is unfortunate. I hope that some of you out there who have good posts from these areas, or know people who do, submit or nominate them for the next Carnival. As for everyone who has been submitting, keep doing so. Hopefully as the Carnival grows, we'll get great analytic posts, as we have to this point, and great historical and continental posts as well.
There's something else lacking that may be even more problematic, and symptomatic of larger trends in the blogosophere. In this, the 7th Carnival, there is only 1 post by a female blogger, and it was nominated rather than submitted by the blogger herself. This ratio is reflected in the previous Carnivals as well. I'm afraid that this sort of thing only furthers the commonly-held (even among many philosophers) and viciously false belief that philosophy is a man's game. I wish I had a suggestion for encouraging more female bloggers to submit, but I don't. I hope that all of you who know female philosophy bloggers will encourage them to submit posts to future Carnivals, and if they don't submit them on their own, then you might consider nominating their best posts anyway.
The Carnival Links
On the Humean Analyis of Analogy
God the Utilitarian?
Act vs. Rule
In Defense of Almeida and Oppy
Determinism and Disneyland
Realistic Utopia, a fantasy?
Equality of Opportunity: One and Two
Ethics and Neurology
The Value of Knowledge and Being in a Position to Know
End of Semester Wrap-up
UPDATE: Two very late additions:
Richard Posner, guest blogging at Leiter Reports has two very good posts on religion and law, the first here, and the second replying to comments on that post, here. In addition to the comments on Leiter's site, John Mandle has provided an excellent commentary at Crooked Timber. Given the quality of these posts, we would be remiss if we did not include them in this edition of the Carnival.