It is still very common that students only get readings by male authors in their introductory classes to philosophy. This contributes to the image of philosophy as a boys only discipline. It would therefore be useful to have a list with readings written by women that are suitable for philosophy courses, such as general introduction to philosophy, philosophy of science, ethics, epistemology.
I would like to invite readers to contribute their favorite pieces, written by women philosophers, to the following Google spreadsheet (please fill out the spreadsheet, rather than using the comment section, except if you experience difficulties with the spreadsheet).
In first instance, the focus would be on papers and book excerpts that are not overtly specialist or technical, suitable for intro-level or intermediate courses. Ideally, they should have made a significant impact on their field. They should be readings you have either already successfully used in class context, or envisage using.
A review of a recent collection of essays on Davidson concludes with:
To conclude, there are some interesting and thought-provoking moments in
this collection. But the take-home message (no doubt unintended) is
that Davidson's insights and theorizing have far less currency in
current analytical philosophy than they did twenty or thirty years ago.
It is interesting to compare this volume with two very famous and
influential volumes: Truth and Interpretation: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson, edited by Lepore, and Actions and Events: Perspectives on the Philosophy of Donald Davidson, edited
by Lepore and Brian McClaughlin. Those two volumes show how central
Davidson was at the time (1985 and 1986) to most of the major areas of
philosophy (language, epistemology, metaphysics, and mind). In contrast,
reading the present volume brings home how much philosophy has moved
away (for better or for worse) from those Davidsonian themes that
captured the imagination of entire generations of analytic philosophers.--José Luis Bermúdez.
I rarely agree with José Bermúdez, but for once I share his sentiment. (Recall this post on how Anscombe's Intention is being unshackled from a Davidsonian interpretive frame.) Still, it would be interesting to see some careful data on this; this quick and dirty data suggests that the earlier "Davidsonic boom" may just a being at Oxford-induced illusion--a known perceptual bias. Either way, José does not explain why "philosophy" moved "away" from Davidsonian themes. Is it just a consequence of changing fashions, or have fatal arguments been directed against the Davidsonian program? Is it too early to tell? Readers's insights much appreciated.
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
A recent review of a companion to Oakeshott concludes with the following lines:
In closing I must -- reluctantly -- say something about Robert Grant's
contribution. It has no place in this volume. It is about Oakeshott's
sex life. There is no discussion in it of Oakeshott's work. It consists
in peddling often malicious hearsay from largely uncheckable sources.
Oakeshott was very careful to separate his private life from his work.
This should be respected, but Grant tramples on it. The editors have
made a serious misjudgment in including this essay.
The very idea of a "Companion" changes its meaning with such a chapter.
Let's grant that reporting hearsay is not very praiseworthy, and let's assume that the reviewer is right in claiming that Grant's contribution is "malicious" (oddly enough no argument or evidence is given for this claim). By mentioning, even condemning Grant's chapter and the volume's editors, the reviewer generates an interest in it that would otherwise not exist (comparable to stamping 'top secret' on a report on the garbage disposal maintenance system). So, in doing so the reviewer calls attention to a topic that apparently "Oakeshott was very careful" to keep quiet and achieves the opposite of Oakeshott's (and perhaps the reviewers') intentions.
Now, if we and Oakeshott respect a private/public distinction then surely discretion is the name of the game here. Now, I have not gone back to Oakeshott, but I thought he was fairly skeptical about such a distinction. Regardless, the lives of the philosophers were once a legitimate subject of interest among the Ancients and Early Moderns. In so far as we allow the life lived and the written record float free from each other we treat our subject as in some sense disembodied. It's not to be denied this can be useful, but it is not obvious that is progress.
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.
(A second in a series, drawn from joint work with K. Joseph Mourad.) How do we measure the complexity of decision procedures in poker? This is a question that is both complex and subtle, and seems to me interesting in thinking about the interplay between formal modeling of epistemological situations and more concrete strategic epistemic thinking.
Phi2Phi is a philosophy app for iPhone and iPad, available free of charge here.
Developed by the University of Toronto epistemologist, Jonathan Weisberg, it allows you to ask other users questions anonymously. You can run micro-polls (to discover intuitions, for example, or test out thought experiments), get advice about teaching, and crowdsource reading suggestions and references. (Of course, you can also answer questions that other users ask.)
A brilliant procrastination device, but useful too!
As many readers will have seen, there is an interview with Herman
Cappelen in the latest issue of 3:AM Magazine. Moreover, Cappelen has recently
published the much-discussed Philosophy without
Intuitions, where he seems to argue (I haven’t had the chance to check out
the book with my own eyes yet) that the X-Phi critique of ‘armchair’
methodology misfires in that it criticizes an inexistent straw-man: there are
no (serious) philosophers for whom intuitions play the philosophical role that
X-Phi’ers claim is the case in traditional, armchair philosophy. Here are some
relevant passages from the interview:
3:AM: Your latest book, Philosophy without Intuitions, enters a hot debate in philosophy, that of the role of intuitions. Philosophers' alleged reliance on intuitions has been source of concern. This concern is unwarranted?
HC: Right. Not because reliance on intuitions is unproblematic, but because philosophers don’t rely on intuitions. It turns out that those who assumed philosophy was intuition-based hadn’t done their homework: they made broad, sweeping claims about an activity (philosophising) and a group of people (philosophers) without careful study of those people and that activity. When you look at what real – as opposed to caricatured – philosophers write (and say), there’s nothing there that is appropriately characterised as ‘relying on intuitions as evidence’.
This is X-posted from Prosblogion. Let me be clear from the outset: the majority of work in analytic philosophy of religion (PoR) does not aim to proselytize, but is concerned with fairly technical topics, such as the possibility of creaturely free will in heaven, the compatibility of specific divine attributes, or the evidential problem of evil. But some portion of PoR is clearly aimed at convincing the reader that religious belief (usually, Christianity, given the demographics of academic philosophy) is reasonable. To this end, philosophers construct sophisticated arguments, for instance, to show that religious belief does not require evidence, that religious faith is also, or even primarily, a matter of practical rationality, that the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of theism, etc. Plantinga and Swinburne are good examples.
Such philosophy of religion can be plausibly regarded as a form of proselytism--I'm using a wider term than the usual apologetics, as apologetics is the more narrow notion of systematically defending a particular religious position. But I'm not entirely happy with the term proselytism either, since I also think that some of this PoR is aimed at those people who have religious faith, but who are wavering, for instance, because others tell them their faith is not rational. So I'll settle for proselytism cum apologetics as a not entirely satisfactory term for this type of PoR. Is it acceptable for philosophers of religion to engage in proselytism/apologetics?
The Philosophy of Biology Lab that I co-run with Jim Griesemer here at UC Davis is re-reading Wesley Salmons' Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World. I am reminded how, when doing such re-readings, one can find little nuggets of wisdom that may have been overlooked on the first read. Even in the Preface.
Although much modern work on scientific explanation has been rather formal and technical -- often treating various quasi-formal 'models' in great detail -- I shall dwell extensively on less formal considerations. There are two reasons for this emphasis. In the first place, I have been convinced for some time that many recent philosophical discussions of scientific explanation suffer from a lack of what Rudolf Carnap called "clarification of the explicandum." As Carnap has vividly shown, precise philosophical explications of important concepts can egregiously miss the mark if we do not have a sound prior informal grasp of the concept we are endeavoring to explicate.
It's my impression that this is a lesson that many have failed to learn; all too often I see formalism with little attempt to explain what the formalism is intended to represent (and not just in philosophy of science).
I got my first taste of the existence of boundary policing within
philosophy a year after graduation (Tufts 93): at my graduation a family
friend had given me a collection of essays by Isaiah Berlin. Subsequently, I devoured it and his other writings; went
on to Vico (of course), and a whole lot of other obscure authors. A year later I went back
to Tufts to celebrate some friends' graduation and to beg for a
TA job (in political science); as it happened I bumped into a "famous
student of Rawls" on campus; he (not Rawls) was a very good teacher and
involved in the great questions of the day in Washington. I admired him.
He recognized me, we made some small talk, and for whatever reason I
revealed my excitement about Berlin (I may have even carried a totemic
copy of Four Essays on Liberty around with me). I am not sure what I expected, but was completely taken aback by
the disapproving grunts, and was told something to the effect that
Berlin isn't "really philosophy." Fair enough.
Much later I decided that Rawls had created (by design/also here) a "school" with broadly shared sensitivities and, thus, gaps in scholarly knowledge. For, Rawls would teach his own work in light of constructed traditions from which he privileged certain thinkers (including, in fact, Berlin when his "famous student" was at Harvard; Rawls studied with Berlin at Oxford on his Fullbright). One consequence of this way of teaching I noted in passing last week: in Theory of Justice (TJ), Rawls calls attention to the significance of the now forgotten Frank Knight (and Knight's debates with Arrow)), but from the evidence available to me it's clear that Rawls did not teach his students to appreciate the significance of Knight to TJ.
This by way of introduction to the topic of the present post: from the vantage point of contemporary political philosophy, Rawls' near-complete silence on his contemporary, Hayek, is striking, and even a bit puzzling. (Here's an exception to the point.) Even Nozick engages less with Hayek in Anarchy than one would expect today.
A few days ago, Berit posted on the virtue of philosophers collaborating with psychologists. I've thought a bit about collaboration over the last 5-10 years, and I want to suggest some reasons why I think it is far more important than is generally recognized.
There is one last lacuna that demands mention. When Verene puts
forward the idea, to cite but one example of many, of the importance of
Goethe and the opportunity for a separate study on Goethe's influence
on Cassirer, one wonders why Verene has not mentioned John M. Krois who,
it is well known, has always insisted on the importance of Goethe for
Cassirer. The footnotes of Verene's work are filled with such lacunae.--From this review.
I liked this review a lot; it first offers a critical summary of the book and then moves to substantive criticism. But the last paragraph (quoted above) left me dissatisfied. Rather than just pointing at at an example of "such lacunae," I would have preferred a more substantive list of examples and references as a guide to (future) graduate students and scholarship. But maybe that's too much work to expect from a review? What do readers think?
I have just volunteered as a philosophy and neuroscience teacher at my
daughter's school (third grade and gifted). If you have any fun
ideas/puzzles/exercises/studies for this grade level that relate to
philosophy or neuroscience, please post them here. Though I have ideas
of my own, I could use some help.
Over the last week, there have been quite a few blog posts prompted
by Tim Williamson’s recent critique of experimental philosophy in his review of
J. Alexander’s Experimental Philosophy.
In particular, at NewAPPS Eric Schliesser and Berit Brogaard shared some of their
views on the debate. Here, however, I want to discuss a post by Eric
Schwitzgebel at Splintered Mind, as I think he identifies an important and
overlooked component of the whole debate. Eric puts forward the distinction
between X-Phi in a narrow and in a wide sense. The narrow conception can be
the work canonically identified as "experimental philosophy" surveys
ordinary people's judgments (or "intuitions") about philosophical
concepts, and it does so by soliciting people's responses to questions about
The wide conception is more difficult to define, and Eric
basically offers a definition by exclusion:
In this broad sense, philosophers who do empirical work aimed at addressing traditionally philosophical questions are also experimental philosophers, even if they don't survey people about their intuitions.
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!
"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.
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.
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.
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.
In this post, I propose a meta-philosophical category: the undeveloped frequent observation. I'll explain with an example, but the general idea is of something that important philosophers notice every so often, but that doesn't receive systematic development.
Now one reason not to run with an idea is that people find it false. So I'm interested especially in observations that pop up again and again, but are neither argued against nor rejected by a near concensus. (It doesn't take a consensus that the observation is true for it to be taken up and run with, just a few philosophers. So only a near concensus of falsehood would explain a lack of work.) That is, I am interested in substantive philosophical observations or suggestions that are made by several influential philosophers and largely ignored by the profession thereafter.
Brit: I just now read on your Facebook page that you just finished a co-authored paper. You seemed quite enthusiastic about co-authoring in general. That made me think about co-authoring papers in philosophy. It's still fairly seldom that you see any co-authored papers in philosophy. In the sciences it's the other way around. Nearly every paper is co-authored. I suppose one main difference is that it takes a lot of people to complete an experiment, whereas it doesn't take more than one philosopher to sit in an armchair :) I have nonetheless co-authored quite a few papers with people in philosophy. Unlike you, I think my overall view is that I don't find it very productive. So I was wondering whether you could tell us a bit about your recent experiences regarding co-authored papers.
Catarina: Well, I have not co-authored that many papers actually; the paper I finished yesterday is only my fourth co-authored paper. In each case, the process has been somewhat different. My first co-authored paper was written with Stephen Read: we realized that we both intended to speak on a very similar topic at a given conference, so he proposed that we do it together. Basically, he wrote his part and I wrote mine, but we were very much in agreement on the basic thesis from the start. My second and third co-authored papers were written with my friend and former colleague Edgar Andrade; the first one started when Edgar (who has a mathematics background) came to me with some results on different semantics for syllogistic and asked what the results meant philosophically. From there on, the process was truly collaborative; it was laborious and time-consuming, but I do think it is one of the best papers I've ever written, and precisely thanks to the collaboration. The other paper with Edgar was actually mostly written by him on the basis of some results we had proved together on Brandom's notions of entailment; I was mostly 'coaching' the writing process. (All papers available on my website.)
From his piece "Altered States," in the Aug 27 edition of The New Yorker. Toward the end of the recounting of his reaction to 20 pills of Artane, Sacks writes:
I went back into the house and put on the kettle for another cup of tea, when my attention was caught by a spider on the kitchen wall. As I drew nearer to look at it, the spider called out, "Hello!" It did not seem at all strange to me that a spider should say hello (any more than it seemed strange to Alice when the White Rabbit spoke). I said, "Hello, yourself," and with this we started a conversation, mostly on rather technical matters of analytic philosophy. Perhaps this direction was suggested by the spider's opening comment: did I think that Bertrand Russell had exploded Frege's paradox? Or perhaps it was its voice--pointed, incisive, and just like Russell's voice, which I had heard on the radio. (Decades later, I mentioned the spider's Russellian tendencies to my friend Tom Eisner, an entomologist; he nodded sagely and said, "Yes, I know the species.")
Mohan ridicules Stebbing with a fantastic bit of rhetoric: "Eric admires Susan Stebbing because she was
a philosopher who spoke out against the authority of science. I am not so
convinced that her stance was all that admirable. I am all for challenging
scientists when their philosophy is confused. I am much less keen on
setting up common sense as a competitor of science. This is what Stebbing did." Now, first, I had written, appreciatively about "her willingness to challenge the way the authority of science is used in irresponsible, public speech." In fact, Stebbing
is not setting up common sense as a competitor to physics, nor is she concerned about defending common sense against displacement from science. Rather, she is attacking muddled metaphysics and muddled theology that mixes common sense and esoteric mathematical physics. (I am willing to grant that in doing so she may have missed what is valuable in Eddington.) On the contrary, she has a healthy respect for physics qua physics. As she writes, "in the present stage of physics, very little can be conveyed to those who lacks the mathematical equipment required to understand the methods by which results are obtained and the language in which these results can alone find adequate expression" (p. 44 in the 1944 edition; p. 50 in the origiginal).
Throughout his piece, Mohan misrepresents the dialectic between Stebbing and
Eddington. For example, in context, Stebbing is not refuting external-world
skepticism (as Mohan implies), but an argument that such external world skepticism "can itself
be the outcome of the labours of the physicists," (p. 90 in my 1944 edition; p. 112 in the first; note Stebbing's plural) because (of course)
such (shared) labors presuppose that the "the world of physics" is about *something* (that is, "the physical world"). That is, in
fact, a solid bit of philosophical wisdom.
"I agree that there is a difficulty; it is the difficulty of the gap between conscious processes and physical events." Stebbing, Philosophy and the Physicists Chapter 9, 164 (in my 1944 edition [in other editions p. 217]).
"There is an urgent need to-day for the citizens of a democracy to think
well. It is not enough to have freedom of the Press and parliamentary
institutions." Stebbing, Thinking to Some Purpose
Readers may recall my exchange with Mohan about the enduring significance of L. Susan Stebbing. I argued that among the pre-eminent (and largely anti-metaphysical) founders of analytical philosophy she was the most significant theorist of the nature of analysis and the metaphysical turn it could take (I also argued she gives us a good glimpse of why Spinozism is the main alternative to analytical metaphysics). Mohan responded by criticizing Stebbing's command of the analytical tools available to her. I defended Stebbing by claiming that Mohan misunderstood the way in which Stebbing is thinking about reference. We left it there in public. Mike Beaney gives a nice treatment of the issues here, although (and I say this with trepidation) Beaney mistakenly follows Max Black in understanding Stebbing-style metaphysical analysis as uncovering facts rather than the structure of facts!
Here, I focus on another enduring, largely overlooked significance of Stebbing's philosophizing: her willingness to challenge the way the authority of science is used in irresponsible, public speech (recall the moving closing lines of her (1937) Philosophy and the Physicists). Now we are all indebted to Abe Stone for reminding us that the Carnap-Heidegger split centered on what the nature of responsible speech by philosophers is (see Jeff's post and mine), but Stebbing reminds us that the authority of science has displaced philosophy (and theology) not just to settle questions within philosophy [I call this "Newton's Challenge to Philosophy"], but also among the educated public, but in doing so the need for a certain philosophical expertise remains (recall David Albert's criticism of Krauss). Stebbing's Philosophy and the Physicist ought to be a model for us as we think about the public role of philosophy.
We are all familiar with the closing scene of Plato's Phaedo and the last sentence of Wittgenstein's Tractatus, of course. But I think this is pretty damn good, too:
Is it not odd that men should have come to this pass--that they look for hope in physics and welcome, as some do, any indication of unreason in the world? Perhaps it seems less odd when we reflect upon the history of mankind, the hopeless mess that we have made of human lives. Our greed, our stupidity and lack of imagination, our apathy, these are the factors upon which the present sorry state of the world is largely consequent. It is enough to fill us with depair. Yet, despair need not be the last word. It lies within our power, if we so desire, to make the familiar world we inhabit more worthy of habitation by beings who aspire to be rational and are capable of love. Our limitation is due not to ignorance, not to the 'blind forces of Nature', not to the astronomical insignificance of our planet, but the feebleness of our desires for good. This limitation is not to be removed by the advances of physical knowledge, nor should our hopes be placed in the researches of the physicist.--L. Susan Stebbing, Philosophy and the Physicists.
Some other time I'll blog more about Stebbing (recall my exchange with Mohan (here, here, and here); Mohan and I have done some follow-up work), but for now let me ask readers for their favorite closing lines of philosophical works.
This review prompted a melancholic reflection: analytical philosophy got started in a kind of allergic reaction to hero-worship, but a few generations later we have become quite good at it (recall also this post on Kripke-Mania):
The essays in the volume also nicely illustrate the profound impact Alvin Plantinga has had on the field of philosophy. His purely academic achievements were not the only reason for this conference and ensuing volume. Consider the first footnote in Michael Bergmann's essay.
I am very pleased to be presenting this chapter in honor of Alvin Plantinga. His philosophical writings are brilliant, field defining, and full of wit, all of which make them both hugely beneficial and a huge pleasure to read. But even more impressive and meaningful to me, however, is the manner in which he has modeled in his own life, in multiple ways that I think about often, how someone with a career in philosophy can be a faithful Christian (p. 9, n. 1).
Comments such as these, including the whole of Wolterstorff's essay, indicate that Al has not been content to merely blaze new trails in the philosophical landscape. He has shouldered the more difficult task of guide and mentor to many who have followed him on those new trails. This volume appropriately conveys appreciation for his work, both philosophical and personal.
I counted four "profound"s, four "important"s, two "fascinating"s (not to mention Bergmann's size-obsession ("huge"), etc.) in this short review. Anyway, let's grant the significance of Prof. Plantinga's contribution to metaphysics, especially. As I have remarked before, some of his sociological actions are more controversial than these hagiographical comments by his admirers suggest. It's one thing to have such hero-worship in a volume devoted to celebrating the man's life and works; it's another to recycle them in a professional review.
The latest episode of the University of Chicago-based podcast ‘Elucidations’ has me talking about philosophical methodology with the podcast’s host Matt Teichman. It was lots of fun to talk to Matt and record the podcast, and I hope that this can be felt in the end-result. (I’m told btw that I’m speaking much too fast, which is probably somewhat related to my enthusiasm for the topic...)
I realize this scores pretty high on the ‘shameless self-promotion’ scale (probably making some of the PA readers hate me even more). But I’ve benefited a lot from discussions here at NewAPPS for my ideas on philosophical methodology, in particular in comments on some of my methodology posts (such as here and here). So I hope at least some of the NewAPPS readers will appreciate the pointer.
Ever so often people ask me “How do you get so much work done?” I am usually tempted to answer along the lines of “I don’t really get all that much work done. Yesterday I only worked for about 4 hours and most days I don’t get any work done because it’s summer and my daughter is home and …” but I have learned over the years that that’s not the answer people want. They don’t want to hear about being a single mother and having 4-hour stretches to work on good days. They want to know how I get the work done I do get done in spite of being a single mother, owning two attention-seeking cats and all that.
Though I always knew what kind of answer people wanted, I didn’t quite know how to present it until yesterday ((Think Lewis on knowledge without belief). I was in my usual working spot: Kaldi’s in Downtown Clayton. One of my local cohorts was there as well. “I am not going out drinking the next three weeks,” I boldly stated. “Really!?!” She responded, “You are not even going to have a drink on Fourth of July?” I had just agreed to go to her Fourth of July party, so my statement may have come across as rude. “Don’t worry” I replied. “I don’t normally keep my own promises”. She looked relieved but also puzzled. But it really isn’t all that puzzling.