I’m in Rio de Janeiro at the moment for UNILOG. I had hoped to be able to post something ‘fresh from the over’, but I’ve been too busy conferencing. So instead I will post a couple of songs by singer Maria Rita. (Ed Zalta, a big fan of Maria Rita, is also here, and this is what made me think of her for this week’s BMoF.) As some readers may know, she is the daughter of the legendary Elis Regina, but her success should in no way be credited exclusively to her illustrious genealogy (her father is pianist Cesar Camargo Mariano).
Her 2003 debut album has been her most successful one so far, but she has produced a constant stream of good music since. Her 2007 album Samba Meu also received lots of love, and last year she performed tribute concerts to her mother, 30 years after her premature death. The concerts have now become the CD/DVD Redescobrir. So I’m posting ‘Cara valente’, my favorite track from her debut album, and ‘O bebado e o equilibrista’ from Redescobrir, one of Elis Regina’s best known songs. (I wonder how many readers will now join Ed Zalta in Maria Rita's fanclub.)
I’m in San Francisco for the APA at the moment, thankfully
with good internet connection but very little time for anything other than
socializing, ahem, I mean, attending interesting philosophy talks. I was
tempted to skip BMoF this week, but then someone came to me this afternoon to say
that he’s a big fan of BMoF (sorry, I didn’t catch your name!). So thanks to
this kind soul, there will be BMoF this week after all…
I’m posting a song by the band Skank, who started out as a
ska/reggae band but in the meantime has experimented with different styles. This song, ‘Saidera’
(meaning: one for the road, the last drink of the night), is from their 1998
album Siderado. It’s all very
pop-ish, but in my opinion very enjoyable – I danced to this particular song
countless times back in the day. I haven’t been able to find the full studio
version of this song, so here is a partial version and below a live version.
The latest The Stone column is by Roger Scruton, with the
suggestive title ‘When hope tramples truth’. There is not much to disagree with regarding his apparent main point, namely that we all prefer to hear good news
over bad news, and that we have a strong tendency to seek confirmation for the
beliefs we already hold rather than to actively look for dissenting opinions.
In particular, the phenomenon of confirmation bias (and other similar cognitive
tendencies) has been extensively documented by psychologists. So far, the piece
is just trivial. (It remains nevertheless sound advice that, to counter confirmation bias, looking for
counterarguments to the thesis one wants to establish is quite effective -- as philosophers know
all too well but do not always practice.)
But of course, Scruton has a non-trivial (and controversial)
point to make, concerning his own ‘worry of the month’ (see the wikipedia entry for some of his other worries), namely same-sex
therefore united to promote this cause, and, as is so often the case, have
turned persecuting stares on those who dissent from it, dismissing them as
intolerant, “homophobic,” “bigoted,” offenders against the principles of
liberal democracy. Of course the optimists may be right. The important fact,
however, is that hope is more important to them than truth.
Georgetown philosopher Bryce Huebner informed me via Twitter yesterday that he was
listening to Krig-ha, Bandolo!(1973),
the legendary first solo album by the legendary Raul Seixas. (I was convinced
that I had already written a BMoF on Raul Seixas, but now I can’t find it, so
probably not then.) In turn, Bryce was reminded of the album by Boston University philosopher Aaron Garrett –
great to see all these philosophers with such exquisite musical taste! So to
ensure that Krig-ha, Bandolo! becomes
even more popular among my fellow philosophers, here are two of its classics:
‘Mosca na Sopa’ and ‘Metamorfose Ambulante’. The whole album is quite
experimental, with psychedelic undertones. ‘Mosca’, for example, mixes capoeira
beats with classic rock’n’roll (mixing Brazilian regional beats with rock is a
constant theme in his music).
Raul Seixas died prematurely in 1989, but remains extremely
popular among Brazilian hippies, psychedelics, mystics, rockers etc. Every year
on his birthday (June 28th), legions of fans throw a parade in his
honor in Sao Paulo. It is perhaps hard to appreciate the significance of his
music out of this broader context, but I bet many other philosophers will
follow Bryce and Aaron’s lead and become Raul Seixas enthusiasts. Raul was himself very interested in philosophy, with a clear mystical bent. It is perhaps also worth noticing that one of his main collaborators early in his career was Paulo Coelho -- yes, that Paulo Coelho. Some of Raul's greatest songs were co-written with Coelho (e.g. 5 of the songs in Krig-ha, Bandolo!); well, I guess it's fair to say he should have kept it to song-writing... Anyhow, without further ado, here is Raul.
I have a fairly technical post over at M-Phi on desiderata for formal/axiomatic theories of truth, picking up on some ideas I discussed in a NewAPPS blog post of two years ago. My feeling is that it is a bit too technical/specific for cross-posting here at NewAPPS, but do check it out if formal theories of truth is what you like to read about on a Sunday afternoon!
Fields-medalist Terence Tao (among other feats, he spotted the mistake in Nelson’s purported proof of the inconsistency of arithmetic back
in 2011) has a blog post on the meaning of rigor in
mathematical practice. He files this post under the heading ‘career advice’,
but the post in fact touches upon some key issues in the philosophy of
mathematics, such as: What is the role of intuitions for mathematical knowledge?
What is the role of formalism and rigor in mathematics? How are ‘formal’ and ‘informal’
While Tao’s post is not intended to be a contribution to
the philosophy of mathematics as such, and while one may miss some of the depth
of the discussions found in the philosophical literature and elsewhere, I find
it illuminating to see how a practicing mathematician (and a brilliant one at
that) conceptualizes the role of rigor in mathematical practice. (Also, much of
what he says fits in nicely with some of the views about formalisms and proofs
that I’ve been defending in recent years, as I will argue below -- something that I couldn't let go unnoticed!)
(Minimalistic BMoF today.) I haven't posted a song by Caetano Veloso in ages, I'm sure the Caetano fans are wondering what is going on. So today I'm posting 'Lingua', from his 1984 album Velo -- a rap avant la lettre, and a duo with the incomparable Elza Soares. One of the best lines: "If you have an incredible idea/it is best to write a song/it's been proved that it is only possible to philosophyze in German."
Inspired by the success of the already existing Societies for Women in Philosophy (UK, USA, Canada -- and it seems that there are others in the making), we are now launching the Dutch version of the Society (possibly also to include the Dutch-speaking parts of Belgium in the near future): SWIP.NL. We will have our inaugural meeting on April 10th 2013; the announcement for the meeting is below. All are very welcome to attend!
We also very much welcome offers of help to get SWIP.NL up and running, and thus to promote the position of women in the philosophy profession in the Netherlands and beyond.
Also, notice that Jennifer Saul (Sheffield and SWIP-UK), one of the speakers at the launch, will also deliver the first annual Aspasia Lecture the next day in Groningen. See the flyer for further details.
I’ve mentioned a couple of times before
that Clube da Esquina is possibly my
very favorite Brazilian album of all times. It is one of those rare albums
which is a truly coherent whole, while also having an amazing number of
individually spectacular songs, like ‘Cravo e canela’, ‘Me deixa em paz’ and so
many others. One of them is the now classic ‘Trem azul’. Besides the original
version in Clube da Esquina, it has
been recorded by a number of musicians of the magnitude of Elis Regina (who is
considered by many as the greatest female Brazilian singer of all times) and
Tom Jobim. Each version is very different from the others, and I really cannot
make up my mind as to which one I like best.
Fortunately, there is no need to make up my
mind, and I can post as many versions as I want here at BMoF! So here are the
ones I like best: the original one, sung by Lo Borges; Elis Regina’s version,
here in a recording for a TV show in 1981, incidentally one of her very last
performances caught on video before her premature death (check here for her studio version); and Tom Jobim’s
version, curiously also recorded in his last album, Antonio Brasileiro (1994).
Tom Jobim’s version is (mostly) in English, so for once you don’t have to be
left to wonder what the lyrics are all about (the Enlighs translation follows the original text fairly closely).
Pornography has been a topic of interest to feminist philosophers
and feminists in general for quite some time. (It has also been an important topic in aesthetics and philosophy of art, but here I will not engage with this literature at all.) I think it is fair to say that
most feminists (philosophers or otherwise) tend to be critical of pornography
and to view it as yet another form of oppression of women, for a variety of
reasons. (For an overview, see Watson’s 2010 review article in Philosophy Compass.) But at least some feminists (e.g. Betty Dodson) have defended more
favorable views of pornography, for example by recognizing that there is wide diversity under the general heading of pornography. Some say that there is no such thing as Pornography with capital P, but rather a range of pornographies, different instantiations of the general idea.
Let me state from the outset that I (feminist or not)
identify with the second camp. I do not endorse the view that pornography is in
principle, by definition, degrading (to women or others). So to define
pornography as “the
graphic sexually explicit subordination of women, whether in pictures or words”
(as MacKinnon and Dworkin did in the early 1980s) is in a sense conveniently question-begging.
Moreover, it seems to exclude from the realm of pornography manifestations
which most of us would not hesitate to call pornography (say, a graphic
sexually explicit encounter between two men).
Here I am, back from my vacation and trying
desperately to catch up with the accumulated work and all the interesting
events in internet-world of the last week. At NewAPPS alone there are quite a
few posts I want to react to, in particular Eric’s post on the genealogy of
genealogy. But let me start by commenting on the ‘hot topic’ of the moment, at
least among philosophy geeks: L.A. Paul’s draft paper on how decision theory
is useless when it comes to making life-transforming decisions such as having a
child. Eric and Helen already have nice posts up reacting to the paper, but I
hope there is still room for one more NewAPPS post on the topic.
Perhaps the first thing to notice, which
comes up only at the end of Paul’s paper, is that the very idea of having
children being a matter of choice/decision is a very recent one. For the
longest part of human history, and for the largest portion of the human
population (excluding, for example, some of those who took up religious vows), finding a partner and procreating was simply the normal course of
events, no questions asked. (Indeed, Christian faith even views it as a moral
obligation.) It is only fairly recently, possibly only towards the end of the
20th century, that having a child became a matter of choice at least
for some people, in some parts of the planet. Contributing factors are the
availability of contraceptive methods, and a wider range of life options which
are now deemed ‘acceptable’, or at least more acceptable than before. (People
who choose to remain child-free, in particular women, are still often looked at
As I write this, I am mustering the courage
to go pack, as tomorrow (that is, today for you, dear reader) we are off for
our yearly ski vacation. To top it up, today (again, MY today -- thinking of Predelli here) is my birthday,
and somehow I think it is rather unfair that I have to spend my birthday
packing. But anyway, trying to get myself in a birthday-ish spirit, today I’m
posting ‘Envelheço na cidade’, by the 1980s rock band Ira! (Wrath! -- the name was also inspired by the Irish IRA), which was quite a hit among the
kool kids back in the 1980s. The chorus goes ‘Happy birthday/I age in the
city’, and I remember listening to it and realizing for the first time that
there was a connection between aging and having a birthday! The innocence of a
10 year-old facing the existential malaise of the human condition… And since
I’m at it, let me also post ‘Flores em voce’, the other big hit from the same
1986 album by Ira! -- a rather unusual song, with a string quartet as the only featured instruments.
It's Friday, but somehow I'm not much in a Friday-ish mood, after a week which included a stomach flu and some other small annoyances. So it's a bit difficult to find inspiration for BMoF today, but somehow I had to think of Seu Jorge's hilarious versions of David Bowie songs in The Life Aquatic, one of the characteristically bizarre Wes Anderson creations. Seu Jorge (who is also an actor, having performed for example in City of God) is the weird guy on Zissou's boat whose sole contribution to the operations seems to be to provide musical entertainment with his strange renditions of Bowie songs in Portuguese.
In the spirit of my somewhat melancholic Friday today, here's 'Space Oddity'. If you are curious, check this youtube channel for the full collection of Bowie/Seu Jorge songs.
I’ve been much too silent on the blogging front the last
couple of weeks, as I was evaluating a big pile of grant applications – an activity
that seems to have sucked all intelligent life out of my brain. I have a few ‘real’
blog posts in mind, but for now let me just direct your attention to an awesome
tumblr, ‘WTF, Evolution?’ (which I came across via Hugo Mercier on Facebook). It
posts pictures of very strange-looking animals, which by itself is already
rather cool, but the best part are the comments. For example, for this animal
There was much love for my post on Tulipa Ruiz of last week. So here's another sample of her awesomeness, 'Só sei dançar com você', in two versions: the official album version, and an a capella version with Criolo, who as some readers may recall is also one of my current favorites.
One of the darlings of current Brazilian ‘Indie’ music (if
there is such a thing…) is Tulipa Ruiz. I’ve been following her career for a
while (on the advice of my friend Alexandre Cerqueira, who is a friend
and big van of Tulipa). On the ‘Best of’ lists of Rolling Stone Brasil for 2012,
her new album Tudo Tanto came as no.
2, and in the song ranking she has ‘Dois cafes’ at no. 5 (in a duo with Lulu
Santos, a giant of Brazilian pop music and an excellent guitar player), and ‘É’ at no. 15. Tulipa
Ruiz’s music is not always of easy assimilation; I must admit that it took me a
while to get into the spirit. On the other hand, this also means that her music
is original, unexpected, and the more you listen to it, the more you like it.
Here is an excellent interview with Jesse Prinz (H/T Markus Schlosser) on the
themes of his new book, Beyond Human
Nature (which I still haven’t gotten around to reading). The main idea of the book is
that experience and culture, as opposed to genetic and biology, play a much larger
role in determining our behavior than is often thought. Some excerpts:
“If we are interested in differences in intelligence, the
thing we should be interested in is learning and culture.”
“Brazilians are super-nice.”
I find myself agreeing with pretty much everything that
Prinz says in the interview (including the bit about Brazilians…), which is not
so surprising, given that, like him, I am very much of a ‘nurture-culture’
person on the nature-nurture dimension. (A bit of self-promotion: here is a recent paper of mine, "A dialogical account of deductive reasoning as a case study for how culture shapes cognition", forthcoming in the Journal of Cognition and Culture.) But more importantly, to my mind he
manages to set up the debate in a very subtle and informative way, so I very
much recommend the interview to anyone interested in this debate. (Btw, I’ve posted
on my enthusiasm for his work before.)
Busy week here, so short BMoF. Today I'm posting 'Mama Africa', a song of the mid-1990s by Chico Cesar, a very cool singer from the state of Paraiba. It's a good example of Brazilian Reggae, and it's a song I danced to at many a party back in the 1990s. Perfect for the start of this cold (in the Netherlands at least) weekend!
Evolutionary naturalism provides an account of our capacities that undermines their reliability, and in doing so undermines itself...I agree with Alvin Plantinga that...the application of evolutionary theory to the understanding of our own cognitive capacities should undermine, though it need not completely destroy, our confidence in them. Mechanisms of belief formation that have selective advantage in the everyday struggle for existence do not warrant our confidence in the construction of theoretical accounts of the world as a whole. I think the evolutionary hypothesis would imply that though our cognitive capacities could be reliable, we do not have the kind of reason to rely on them that we ordinarily take ourselves to have using in them directly--as we do in science. Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos, 27-28 (emphasis in original)
A non-trivial (albeit not the most fundamental) feature of Nagel's book (recall my here, here, here; see Feser's response to me and also Mohan's posts: here, here, here and here) is his reliance on Plantinga's so-called evolutionary argument against naturalism (hereafter EAAN; see also pp. 74-78). Let's leave aside the fact that Nagel pretends in his book that this (evolving) EAAN argument has not been subject to significant criticism. (It must be convenient to think that one is obliged to engage only with one's referee [Sober, although even his criticism of EAAN is ignored], one's colleague [Street], one's cheerleader [Plantinga], and one's deus ex machina [Hawthorne & Nolan].) Here I explore a response to this style of argument that is overlooked by Nagel and, I think, not explored in the literature (but would love to learn otherwise--it's not my field). So, let's grant -- for the sake of argument -- the claim that "Mechanisms of belief formation that have selective advantage in the
everyday struggle for existence do not warrant our confidence in the
construction of theoretical accounts of the world as a whole." What follows from this?
My quick and dirty answer is: nothing. For the crucial parts of science really do not rely on such mechanisms of belief formation. Much of scientific reason is or can be performed by machines; as I have argued before, ordinary cognition, perception, and locution does not really matter epistemically in the sciences.
A few days ago I wrote a post on a dialogical
conceptualization of indirect proofs. Not coincidentally, much of my thinking
on this topic at the moment is prompted by the Prior Analytics, as we are currently holding a reading group of the
text in Groningen. We are still making our way through the
text, but here are some potentially interesting preliminary findings.
I am deeply convinced that the emergence of the technique of
indirect proofs marks the very birth of the deductive method, as it is a
significant departure from more ‘mundane’ forms of argumentation (as I argued
before). So it is perhaps not surprising that the first fully-fledged logical text in
history, the Prior Analytics, offers a sophisticated account of indirect
Rolling Stone Brasil has now released its much-waited (by me, in
any case) ‘Best of 2012’ lists: the 10 best records, and the 10 best tracks.
Not that I’m a ranking fanatic, but these lists allow me to discover
stuff I knew nothing about and thus stay more or less abreast of the latest
developments in Brazilian music. And indeed, there are lots of musicians on
these two lists that I had never heard of, and from a brief inspection some of them
The number one track is the Racionais MC song I posted last
week (sorry dmf, I know you were not impressed…), but otherwise most of the
‘winners’ have not been BMoF guests so far. Some exceptions are Caetano Veloso
(new record ranked as best of the year, in the year he turned 70!) and CéU. I
still have lots of work to do to listen to all this new stuff, but for now let
me post three songs: ‘Essa é pra tocar no baile’ by BNegão & Os Seletores de Frequência (4th
in the song ranking, 3rd in the album ranking), ‘Falta de ar’ by CéU, (4th in album ranking) and ‘A
Bossa Nova é foda’ by Caetano
Veloso (1st in album ranking, 3rd in song ranking).
In his commentary on Euclid, the 5th century
Greek philosopher Proclus defines indirect proofs, or ‘reductions to
impossibility’, in the following way (I owe this passage to W. Hodges, from
Every reduction to impossibility takes the contradictory of
what it intends to prove and from this as a hypothesis proceeds until it
encounters something admitted to be absurd and, by thus destroying its
hypothesis, conﬁrms the proposition it set out to establish.
Schematically, a proof by reduction is often represented as
It is well know that indirect proofs pose interesting
philosophical questions. What does it mean to assert something with the precise
goal of then showing it to be false, i.e. because it leads to absurd
conclusions? Why assert it in the first place? What kind of speech act is that?
It has been pointed out that the initial statement is not an assertion, but
rather an assumption, a supposition. But while we may, and in fact do, suppose
things that we know are not true in everyday life (say, in the kind of
counterfactual reasoning involved in planning), to suppose something precisely
with the goal of demonstrating its falsity is a somewhat awkward move, both
cognitively and pragmatically.
I’m waiting for Rolling Stone Brasil’s list of best albums
of 2012 to comment on it and post some of my favorite songs of the year. But
they have already posted a list of the best videoclips of 2012, and among those
there are two videos by previous BMoF ‘guests’: ‘Mariô’,
one of the many great tracks from Criolo’s 2011 album Nó na Orelha, and ‘Mil faces de um homem leal (Marighella)’
by Racionais MC. The Racionais MC clip is a
particularly special event, as it is their first new track in 10 years, en
route for a new album (recall that Racionais MC is without exaggeration the
most important Brazilian rap band of all times). It is part of the soundtrack
of the documentary on Carlos Marighella, a Marxist revolutionary and opponent of the Brazilian military dictatorship in the 1960s. The Racionais MC videoclip was
chosen as ‘video of the year’ by MTV Brazil.
As some readers may recall (but most probably don't), I’ve written a few blog posts on
the significance of the history of philosophy for systematic philosophical
analysis (here and here, for example). I used the term ‘conceptual archeology’ to refer to the
kind of investigation that seeks to unearth the origins and
development of philosophical concepts that are central for contemporary
philosophers. I also suggested that this exercise is important in that it highlights
the contingent and potentially contentious assumptions that led to the establishment
of a given philosophical concept, and the dogmas and truisms surrounding it.
Now, NewAPPS’er Jeff Bell is working on a project for a
volume on (if I understood it correctly) establishing fruitful dialogues
between continental and analytic philosophers. When he invited me to
contribute, I figured this could be the occasion I had been waiting for to finally
flesh out these ideas of mine in a more systematic way.
December 2012 will be remembered as the month when two
horrific events took place: the Newtown shooting, which cost 26 lives (if I’m not
mistaken), and a brutal gang-rape in New Delhi, which cost the victim’s life. (UPDATE: One of many, but for once the victims survived long enough to tell their story, and for once people listened.) In both cases, the events set in motion a wave of collective outrage, raising in
particular the inevitable questions of how something like this could have
happened, and what can be done to prevent similar atrocities in the future.
What do the two events have in common? One thing they have
in common is the imperativeness of viewing both from the perspective of gender
roles. With respect to the rape case, the gender dimension is immediately
apparent, as rape is one of the most brutal and yet extremely widespread forms of
male domination over women. But the mass shooting in Newtown, and in fact mass
shootings in general in the USA, may (and should!) also be discussed against
the background of gender roles. The fact is that virtually every mass shooting
has been perpetrated by men (and in fact, mostly by white, middle to upper
class males), and this is no coincidence.
Here’s a short BMoF, as by the time this goes online I’ll be
enjoying a short city break in Brussels with my family. Now, one of the CDs we
got for Xmas this year (obrigada, Malu!) is the latest by Adriana Partimpim, aka Adriana
Calcanhotto. I’ve posted some of her songs before, and I love both her work for
adults as well as her work for children (for which she adopts the Partimpim
persona). This latest CD features old 'classics' as well as some of her own
compositions; one of the classics in question is ‘Taj Mahal’ by Jorge Ben,
which I’ve also posted at BMoF some time ago. So here is this new version of ‘Taj
Mahal’ so different from the original and yet so true to its joyful spirit. (Btw, I very much recommend the whole CD; lots of beautiful songs for kids and grownups!)
The connections between Brazilian music (Bossa Nova in
particular) and jazz are well known, but most Brazilian musicians following a
more jazzy approach (as opposed to Brazilian folk music with light touches of
jazz) are based abroad (e.g. Eliane Elias). Jazz is not exactly ‘music for the
masses’ in Brazil. One interesting exception was a jazz band of the late 1980s,
early 1990s: Nouvelle Cuisine. Their first album (1988) featured a
collection of jazz standards such as ‘My funny valentine’, ‘Embraceable you’,
‘Lullaby of birdland’, which is something quite unusual for a Brazilian band (I am not aware of any other such albums).
In later albums, they continued to record jazz classics but veered more and
more towards the classic repertoire of Brazilian folk music.
I was a big fan of their first album already back in the day,
and listening to it now, it strikes me how jazzy and yet how unconventional the
arrangements are (for jazz standards, that is). I hadn’t thought of Nouvelle
Cuisine at all for many years, but the other day I heard ‘Lullaby of birdland’
on the radio (the Ella F version), and had to think of my first acquaintance
with this song thanks to Nouvelle Cuisine. So let me post here ‘Embraceable you’
(I love this version, but my very favorite version is probably Cleo Laine’s), ‘Lullaby
of birdland’, and to illustrate what Nouvelle Cuisine did with classics of
Brazilian folk music, ‘Flor de Lis’ (from a later album), the first hit of my
beloved Djavan (for the sake of comparison, here is the original).
At his blog Edward Feser has been responding to Thomas Nagel's
critics (no, not me (yet)!). In response to Sober's review he concludes
with the following sociological remark:
think, is precisely what is going on -- the “presuppositions that Nagel
trying to transcend” run so deep in contemporary academic philosophical
that it is difficult for most philosophers to get any critical distance
on them. They lack, as Nietzsche might have said, the courage
for an attack on their own convictions. And
yet the evidence that there is something deeply wrong with the
consensus is all around them even in “mainstream” academic philosophy --
work of renegade naturalists like Nagel, Searle, Fodor, McGinn, et al.;
like Chalmers, Brie Gertler, Howard Robinson, John Foster, et al.; and
like the “new essentialist” metaphysicians and philosophers of science
Ellis, Martin, Heil, Mumford, et al.) and the analytical Thomists
Haldane, et al.). It’s psychologically
easy (even if philosophically sleazy) to dismiss one or two of these
as outliers who needn’t be taken seriously.
But as their ranks slowly grow, it will be, and ought to be, harder both
psychologically and philosophically to dismiss them.
Which is no
doubt why the more ideological naturalists would very dearly like to strangle
this growing challenge to the consensus while it is still in its crib -- hence
the un-philosophical nastiness with which Nagel’s views have been greeted in
some quarters. But Sober, to his credit,
is not an ideologue, and is sober enough to acknowledge at least the possibility that Nagel is on to something.--Edward Feser.