We have witnessed a growing interest in experimental philosophy in recent years. The
field that has commonly been referred to as "experimental philosophy"
has so far been taken to include empirical tests of intuitions
concerning philosophical concepts, such as knowledge and intentional
action. There are lots of other areas of philosophy that rely on
empirical data and even studies and experiments. Several years ago, it
became slightly uncool to do philosophy of language in complete
isolation from the empirical findings in linguistics. Many philosophers of
language decided to conduct their own tests of certain word groups or
word constructions. There are also several folks working in philosophy
of mind who take empirical data in neuroscience and psychology seriously. Some of us
also conduct our own studies in these areas.
In reading through the kerfluffle about Berit Brogaard's post yesterday I realized that some of the discussion was a bit too harsh on the DSM.
First off, it should be clear that the psychological disorders delineated by the DSM do not pick out natural kinds in the way the periodic table does. Psychology is not chemistry. For one, the phenomena are maddeningly vague. And for two, one can only delineate the phenomena to the extent that one has a pretty robust normative Aristotelian account of human flourishing (note that this does not mean Chemistry is non-normative, it's just that the norms don't so clearly require Aristotelianism about chemicals, or at the very least no theory of chemical flourishing).
It used to be called Asperger's Syndrome. A new suggestion for the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association and expected to appear in May 2013, is to get rid of that term and include the condition under the label 'high-functioning autism'. Now take a look at some of the characteristics of high-functioning autism:
Obsession with a particular subject matter
Extremely good memory for details that seem quite irrelevant or uninteresting to others
Excellent theory of mind but inability to apply it to their own social encounters, unless trained
Exaggerated eye contact or lack of eye contact, unless trained
Poor face recognition skills
Difficulties remembering names
Show unusual attachment to objects or locations
Prefer to spend time alone and are often lost in their own thoughts
Hypersensitivity in sight, hearing, touch/body sensation, smell or taste (super-sensers)
Show unusual distress when routines are changed
A good number of these ten criteria apply to about 90 percent of philosophers I know... Go figure!
In 1933 Ernest Nagel wrote an extended review (here) for the Journal of Philosophy of the then recently
published Collected Papers of Charles
Sanders Peirce. Volume I of the Collected
Papers was published in 1931, Volume II in 1932. The Collected Papers would eventually come to a total of eight volumes
(the eighth published in 1958). This collection has come to be superseded by
the Peirce Edition Project's ongoing Chronological Edition of the Writings of Charles S. Peirce
out of Indiana University Press (see here), which is slated to total some 30
volumes when completed.
At the very beginning of his review, Nagel notes that having
Peirce’s writings published will allow for “a measure of justice” to be done
for the long neglected Peirce. “Unfortunately,” Nagel adds, “the handsome
volumes of this edition can not undo the damage which both Peirce and
philosophy have suffered when he was not permitted, except for a brief period,
to receive the intellectual and literary
discipline which regular university teaching would have given him.” (p.
365, emphasis mine). In other words, with the exception of the five years
Peirce taught at Johns Hopkins (1879-1884), Peirce’s philosophical work was
largely done without the discipline that comes with “regular university
teaching,” and this, for Nagel, was to have unfortunate consequences both for
Peirce’s philosophy and for philosophy in general.
"why, if at all, such testing of expertise is more urgent in philosophy than in other disciplines."--Tomothy Williamson
The Wykeham Professor of Logicclaims that "the project of Experimental Philosophy, as characterized by Alexander, does not withstand scrutiny." It is worth paying attention if only because this is clearly an attempt to delegitimize experimental philosophy as properly philosophical. (In the conclusion to the piece experimental philosophy is characterized as "polemical philosophy-hating philosophizing from which it has not been entirely free.") Do not object that Williamson is merely criticizing Alexander's formulation. Williamson also writes:
"What the Experimental Philosophy revolution is supposed to change — systematize, restrict, or abolish — is a philosophical method: the use of philosophical intuitions as evidence....The systematic deployment of elaborate hypothetical cases is indeed an eye-catching feature of much recent analytic work. But what Experimental Philosophers target is neither the systematicity nor the elaboration." (Quoted from here; HT Prophilosophy)
Williamson targets the methodological aspirationsof Experimental Philosophy an sich. Given that this approach is no more than a methodology it has no reason for existing. Williamson has three strategies: first, after he suggests (via an analogy with theoretical and empirical physics where the "trade-off between the two sorts of skill is not easily avoided"--this sentence comes after a blistering few pages in which Alexander is portrayed as simply not understanding what important philosophical debates are about) that experimental philosophers will lack certain conceptual skills. (Williamson is counting on us agreeing that without conceptual expertise philosophy is empty.) The second and third strategy are cleverly connected.
About a year ago I had a couple of posts on
Brazilian soul, but my friend Bruno Verbeek would have been right to complain
that I was posting too much ‘old stuff’ again. Now, lest anyone should think
that Brazilian soul is a thing of the past, here is a post to dispel the worry
and introduce Ed Motta to the BMoF readership. It is fair to say that Ed Motta
has been THE Brazilian soulman of the last decades. It all starts with the fact
that he is the nephew of the Brazilian soulman of all times, Tim Maia; and indeed,
when Ed Motta first appeared, he was systematically referred to as ‘Tim Maia’s
nephew’. But this didn’t last, as it quickly became apparent that Ed Motta
could stand his own ground.
The pepper-spraying of seated, nonviolent protesters at my university, the University of California, Davis, made international headlines in November 2011, complete with pictures and videos. Now that some of the major consequences have shaken out, I thought people might be interested in hearing how things currently stand.
First, though, I think it's important to remember what the protests were about. In part, they were (ironically) about the right to protest. Just a few days earlier, a protest at our sister school, UC Berkeley, degenerated when campus police jabbed nonviolent protesters with nightsticks. So, the UC Davis protest was meant to be a show of solidarity with the Berkeley protest. The UC Davis protests were also meant to highlight the problems with repeated tuition hikes at the university. Not only have these tuition hikes made getting an education difficult for many students, but also, they represent the steady erosion of a public university into a private one and an abandonment of California's promise to educate all qualified applicants (the so-called "Master Plan"). Finally, the UC Davis protests were held during the height of the nationwide Occupy protests, and thus to some extent echoed many of those more general concerns, not to mention the tactic of occupying a common area overnight with tents.
Mark Silcox and I have received agrieved e-mails from people taking us to be responsible for issues concerning the (possibly) forthcoming Blackwell anthology "Philosophy of Dungeons and Dragons." Because of the weird way search engines are treating this, people falsely believe that we've treated authors badly. Thusfar I've been publicly circumspect about the backstory of this. But one of the philosophers that e-mailed us put up a public blog post on the issue, I need to set the record completely straight.
Silcox and I originally submitted a proposal to Blackwell series editor William Irwin for "Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy" (note that I still have the original proposal and all relevant e-mails from the press editors). Irwin was enthusiastic but the marketing people required us to write a separate marketing justification. This was not hard since every major book store has a dedicated D&D session, since the marketing plan of Wizards of the Coast requires new editions to be released periodically, and since similar non-fiction books about D&D get floor space and have sold. But, according to Irwin, the Blackwell marketing rejected the project because there wasn't a "marketable moment" like a film release that they could use to sell the book. Fine, that's the considered judgment of a successful press. Mark and I retooled the proposal and pitched the project to Open Court, who accepted it. Our book is out now. You can purchase it HERE. And the Blackwell marketing people didn't know what they were talking about, as it's currently taking up shelf space on the floor of your local Barnes and Noble. Bully for us.
I have been thinking a bit about metaethical expressivism lately. As I
read through some of the criticisms of the view, I realized just how
misunderstood this view is. I am not going to review the criticisms
here. But I do want to state what I believe the view amounts to.
Expressivism is not a theory of the nature of wrongness. It doesn't have
anything to say about what makes an action right or wrong. Furthermore,
the view doesn't offer truth-conditions for moral statements.
As some readers may recall from previous posts on philosophical methodology (here, for example), I am an enthusiast of what can be described as ‘empirically informed philosophy’. I believe that philosophical theories not only can but should yield empirical predictions, or in any case that they should at the very least be compatible with our current best empirical theories about certain phenomena – what John Protevi likes to describe as ‘empirically responsible’. This does not mean that all philosophical questions can or should be reduced to empirical questions (I’m not a positivist!), but I plea for a lot more fluidity between philosophy and different fields of empirical inquiry. In fact, I dare say that it is not overly optimistic to hope for two-way collaborations, where philosophical theories can contribute to the formulation and interpretation of empirical results, and empirical research can provide a more robust empirical content to philosophical theories.
This week I was on the committee of a bachelor’s thesis that I think did a good job at doing exactly that. The student, Sanne Brederoo, already has a master’s degree in neuro-linguistics (if I’m not mistaken), so she is well placed to draw interesting connections between philosophical theories and empirical predictions. The topic of her thesis was the semantics of the term ‘now’; she started out working on neuro-linguistic research on ‘now’, but then felt that this research was lacking a more robust theoretical framing.
Joshua Miller (homepage; blog) has sent us this interesting guest post:
university, Morgan State, is revising its general education curriculum
requirements. Obviously, this is an exciting and anxious time, as the faculty
gather to share their pedagogical methods and ideals while protecting our turf
and trying to fend off managerial incursions on both ideals and turf. When we
met last Spring, our president held up a copy of Richard Arum and Josipa
Roksa’s Academically Adrift and
suggested that we should use it as a guide. Though there are seriousmethodologicalproblems with their research (and
troubling substantiation for previous research showing that many students are not and will not be well-served by a college
education) the book does help those of us in the humanities and liberal arts
make the case for our disciplines.
and Roksa use
data from the Collegiate Learning Assessment to demonstrate that the only students who show significant gains in critical thinking,
complex reasoning, and written communication have taken certain kinds of
courses. These courses had three factors in common: (1) more
than 40 pages of reading per week, (3) more than 20 pages of writing
per semester, and (3) high teacher expectations.
As a result, I have
proposed that Morgan State (and other public universities) should require these
types of courses at the start so that
core critical competencies
are available as they
go on to their major coursework. (The longer proposal is more specific to
Morgan’s needs but also includes lengthy details like book lists.) The
best way to do this is the First-Year Seminar. Small liberal arts college
faculty are probably familiar with this model, but it is uncommon at large
First, let me introduce myself as a new New APPS blogger. I'm a philosopher of biology/science at the University of California, Davis, with strong interests in evolution, ecology, and increasingly, environmental ethics. I hope to blog on a wide range of issues, including but not limited to the above. But let me begin with some thoughts that have been rattling around my brain the last few days, because I would like to get some feedback on them. Ultimately, they are about ethics and environmental ethics.
As you probably know, it's election season in the U.S. And as will happen during election season, even individuals who are very close politically can disagree. Thus, one liberal may say that she is voting for Barack Obama, even though he has been disappointing in some respects and is not really all that liberal. Another liberal will say that he is voting for the person whose values most closely match his own, and that is Jill Stein (the Green Party candidate) not Obama. As it turns out, there are a number of facets to this disagreement about the best person to vote for, including strategies about voting for the lesser of two evils vs drawing a line in the sand now.
The car beeped at me. I looked up, wondering why I was beeped at. Was I parked illegally? Did I have a flat tire? Then the car door opened and a man came out. Instinctively, I opened my car door and got out of my car. "Brit," the voice said. I looked up. "Brit," the voice said again.
For a few minutes I desperately tried to figure out who the voice belonged to. It was getting dark. I couldn't see him very well. Then I realized it was my former colleague. We exchanged a few words. Nothing super-important.
[A] At PLOS our mission is to accelerate progress in science and medicine by
leading a transformation in research communication. We firmly believe
that acceleration also requires being open about correcting the
literature as needed so that research can be built on a solid
foundation. Hence as editors and as a publisher we encourage the
publication of studies that replicate or refute work we have previously
published. We work with authors (through communication with the
corresponding author) to publish corrections if we find parts of
articles to be inaccurate. [B] If a paper’s major conclusions are shown to
be wrong we will retract the paper. By doing so, and by being open about
our motives, we hope to clarify once and for all that there is no shame
in correcting the literature.--By Virginia Barbour and Kasturi Haldar (writing at PLOS) [HT retractionwatch]
[B] "If a paper’s major conclusions are shown to
be wrong we will retract the paper" is very controversial. But the reason for it "in order to ensure that errors (from whatever means – unintentional or
intentional) are not simply incorporated uncritically into the
scientific literature" is not silly. But readers may wish to disagree.
But what about [A] "our mission is to accelerate progress in science and medicine." Maybe that is part of the problem?
Maximizing crossover appeal was crucial this time around, because the infamous 2007 SCP@AAR panel was still fresh in many AAR-going minds. That session had devolved into uncomfortable methodological sparring, and concluded with a prominent theologian suggesting that (analytic) philosophers of religion suffer from a kind of willful naïveté or backwardness, as well as an inability to be genuinely inclusive...
Another consideration in favor of the proposal was that Kant scholars in one methodological tradition are often unfamiliar with work by those in other traditions—even when they work on the same texts.
"It's an unhappy feature of Philosophy
that women are not well represented in our ranks. One way in which we
might help to rectify the situation is by making sure that women in the
are not in any way sidelined and indeed that they are given prominence.
That would make for greater fairness. But it would also communicate that
Philosophy welcomes men and women equally. And, by signaling the fact, it might help
to make the subject equally attractive to them." Philip Pettit (Princeton and Australian National University)
It appears my Ghent colleague, Maarten Boudry, successfully perpetuated a Sokal-style hoax. He gotgibberish paper abstracts papers for two (philosophical) theology conferences (one in reformational philosophy hosted by the VU University in Amsterdam). [UPDATE: I have solid evidence that the other conference was this one.] More on the story here and here. Below the fold, the fake abstract. Would it have fooled you? (Of course, this is not quite Sokal-style achievement; Sokal got a paper into an elite journal.) It probably didn't hurt that Boudry disses Dawkins.
This is my son Thomas (the littler guy, to right). He's a pretty awesome four year old. The picture is from two days ago, when we skipped church and ate at Cracker Barrel instead. I don't know if they have these outside of the American South, so let me explain. They are good places to take kids because the service is fast and, before seating, you can sit on the front porch and the kids can run around in a safe area. They also have tables with checker sets on them.
As the picture reveals, Thomas was pretty obsessed with two other people playing checkers, so when they got up I decided to try to teach him. As of today he sort of gets it. I have to prompt him to take his jumps sometimes, and occassionally he'll still attempt an illegal move, but he basically gets it.
This is all good and fine. But here's the problem, in every single game I've played with him I consciously make stupid moves so that he wins. I've been very misleading if not downright dishonest with him. And now I worry. Is this good parenting? Is it even morally permissible?
[This is the third post after this and this on Maudlin's The Metaphysics Within Physics that I am reading with F.A. Muller, Victor Gijsbers, and Lieven Decock.--ES]
[A] "If a law governs a particular space-time region then the physical states will so evolve." (Maudlin, 17)
analysis of laws is no analysis at all. Rather I suggest we accept laws
as fundamental entities in our ontology." (Maudlin, 18)
[C] "The laws can operate to produce the rest of the Mosaic exactly because their existence does not ontologically depend on the Mosaic." (Maudlin, 175; emphases in original)
[D] "The universe, as well as all the smaller parts of it, is made: it is an ongoing enterprise, generated from a beginning and guided towards its future by physical law." (Maudlin, 182; emphasis in original)
book is fantastic. It gives you a sense of what metaphysics
looks like if one has an advanced education in recent physics; it is also rooted in "scientific practice." With laser like precision it focuses on the most fundamental weaknesses of the most important alternative approaches (Quine, Lewis, Van Fraassen, etc), and it makes obscure physics seem easy to digest. What would stop somebody sympathetic to Maudlin's general orientation from accepting laws in one's ontology [B]?
Maudlin calls the fundamental laws "FLOTEs" (for Fundamental Laws of Temporal Evoluton). Together with "adjunct principles," FLOTEs describe how states (may) evolve into later states. (17) Initial conditions are examples of such principles. One can certainly understand physics such that its business is mainly discovering FLOTEs. So far so good. But [A, C, D] describe the laws themselves as the productive sources of change. If Maudlin were writing in the seventeenth century we would describe his position about laws either as "second causes" (Cartesian language) or as a special modern instance of "formal causation" (in the way that platonizing mathematicians thought of these [see Mancosu's book])--inspired by Kuhn (and anticipated by Burtt), I think such formal causes were conceptually transformed into laws of nature by Bacon and Newton.
[Xposted at Problogion] I've just re-read Paul Griffiths' and John Wilkins' inspiring paper on evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs) for religion (it is a very influential paper on cognitive science of religion and evolutionary debunking, despite its not having appeared in print yet) for a chapter of a monograph I'm writing. Using Guy Kahane's debunking genealogical framework, they argue that natural selection is an off-track process, i.e., one that does not track truth: it produces beliefs in a manner that is insensitive to the truth those beliefs. From this, they conclude that the beliefs that are the outputs of evolved systems are unjustified.
Causal premise.S's belief that p is explained by X
Epistemic premise. X is an off-track process
Therefore, S's belief that p is unjustified
When we apply this argument in a generalized manner, where X stands for "natural selection", this looks like a bad strategy for the naturalist - ultimately, it leads to self-defeat in a Plantingesque manner that most proponents of EDAs would like to avoid. G&W's position is more subtle: they don't want to treat truth-tracking and fitness-tracking as competing explanations, instead, they argue that fitness-tracking and truth-tracking operate at different explanatory levels. In many cases, tracking truth *is* the best way of tracking fitness, especially given (1) that cognition is costly (brains consume a lot of energy), (2) your beliefs influence how you will behave, (3) your behavior influences your fitness. They propose "Milvian bridges", which link truth-tracking and fitness-tracking, in order to salvage commonsense and scientific beliefs.
I strongly support the aims of this petition—to end
the unjust exclusion of women from conferences and edited volumes. And I
agree that aggressive action is needed, since it’s just too easy for
people to be complacent about the problem. I do worry, though, that this
campaign, should it take hold, will mean even fewer keynote invitations
to people of color. I would therefore prefer a broad based
inclusiveness campaign (one that takes into account race, ethnicity,
gender, disability, etc.) over a gendered campaign. Still, no such
action is perfect, and I support this one, but with one qualification.
I’m a senior black male philosopher, and so I would not refuse a keynote
invitation solely on the grounds that the other keynote is a white man.
(And I sincerely hope that no conference organizers will decide not to
invite a man of color just to ensure that at least one of their keynotes
is a woman.) I do however pledge to use whatever leverage I have
(should gentle advice and encouragement prove ineffective) to ensure
that the conferences, volumes, special issues, and so I participate in
are suitably inclusive.--Tommie Shelby (Harvard)
Short version: Science is often said to be committed to reals, because physics, for example, essentially makes use of sentences with real-quantifiers. But we have perfectly good countable, well-founded, constructive models of full second order arithmetic. So why can't physics, for example, simply explicitly embrace one of these as what they are working over and thereby radically simplify their alleged ontological commitments?
It happens when I’m at an academic conference, and someone approaches
me during a short break. I’m alone, because I’ve told my interpreters
to make themselves scarce, in hopes of seeming more approachable. I grew
up hard of hearing, so I manage one-on-one conversations reasonably
well without the interpreter. (quoted from here)
As many have noted the call to action and petition --which has now nearly 900 signatures! -- initiated by Martin Kusch and Mark Lance among others "is much more specific and prescriptive than the actual Gendered
Conference Campaign has been." So, a new official petition has been launched by the GCC "that is more closely aligned with the GCC's methods."
As I write this over a 100 signatures have been gathered, including from lots of folk on the original (non-official) petition. This "official" petition is also drawing on folk that have publicly or privately expressed reservations about our call to action; it is great to see them drawn into the GCC, which ought to be embraced by the whole profession henceforth!
Three times this year a bad thing has happened after I've encouraged editors to give a paper "revise and resubmit."
Note that whenever I review a paper and don't recommend immediate acceptance I work really hard trying to help the writer so that their rewrite will to be up to the quality of the journal. Even when I counsel "rejection" I still try to give detailed constructive advice about how the paper could be recast, even suggesting places the author should send the rewritten paper.
So three times this year instead of making the changes I recommended the author resubmitted substantially the same paper and argued with some vehemence that they should not have to change their paper in the ways I suggested. In all three cases the journal editor had given the paper "revise and resubmit," but then rejected the insufficiently rewritten paper. In two of these cases I googled the paper title after this was over and found out that the submitters were graduate students. This is so bad on so many levels.
It seems to me that there is an issue with the epistemology of domains of quantification that has important implications for the epistemology and semantics of math generally, and which has received less attention than it deserves. In quick outline, the point is this:
A quantificational sentence has a determinate meaning only if there is some determinate fact of the matter as to what its domain of quantification is.
So one knows what one is saying with such a sentence only if one knows what domain one is quantifying over. If we are discussing anything as complex as the reals - equivalently second order arithmetic - and mean to quantify over the "intended model" - that is, do not specify some constructable model as our domain - then we do not know what we are quantifying over.
Thus, we do not know what we are saying when we make claims with second order arithmetic quantifiers.