Friday, December 31, 2004

2004: My Web of Beliefs

It's been suggested to me that a major benefit of this blog is that I'll be able to look back on it in years to come, and see how my thinking has progressed. To help pave the way for future retrospection (is that even a word?), I'm making this 'meta-post' to pull together some of the things I've written over the last year. Its basic purpose is to outline my current philosophical positions. (Hyperlinks are great! You may have noticed that I tend to litter my posts with them, to tie together various 'loose strands' or ideas. I suppose this is just the logical next step...)

My thoughts of various positions are found in my skepticism overview, and my first original ideas were explored here. My current views are described here - in short, I favour coherentist accounts of justification, but externalism about knowledge.

One development worth noting is that I'm probably less of a strict rationalist than I used to be. For example, I've recently considered allowing gut feelings and tradition to count as evidence and reasons, respectively.

I'm an atheist. This post questions whether religion can explain the three 'big questions' of morality, meaning, and the creation of the universe. There's some good discussion in the comments section. I guess another important post is my one on Pascal's Wager, wherein I explain why I find the jealous Christian God so implausible. Oh, and Whose Freedom? explains why I don't think the 'free will' theodicy can answer the problem of evil - quite the reverse, in fact!

I've suggested a fairly pragmatic approach to imputing moral responsibility. (See also my defence of compatibilism regarding free will & determinism.) I'm quite interested in theories of well-being - my central discussion of which can be found here. Another important post is my one on normativity, which explores the normative force of 'oughts'. Moral emotions explores the relationship between morality and emotion. As for moral theories, my favourite is still Desire Utilitarianism (which I haven't properly blogged about yet, but you can find some links, including an overview I wrote, here.)

As for 'applied ethics', my most significant posts are probably the ones on infanticide & abortion, and animal ethics. My views on prisons and punishment are described here.

Although generally left-wing, I'm opposed to all forms of racial discrimination (including "affirmative action"), for the reasons described here. I think the separatist strain of multiculturalism is harmful, as is one-sided assimilation, and much prefer the compromise of reciprocal integration.

My post on Law and Morality looks at the relationship between the two. I still broadly agree with the objections to 'natural law' and 'social contract' theories sketched in my Political Fictions post. Civil Freedom vs. Political Power explains how one can be a fan of liberalism while having qualms about democracy (understood as majoritarian rule). Freedom is central to my political philosophy, though I understand it differently from libertarians.

I guess my main post here would be the one on subjectivity, and perhaps the related one on dreams & sensations. I've recently described Dennett's Multiple Drafts theory of consciousness, and explain in the comments section how far I'm currently inclined to agree with it. I suppose my post Does the Past Matter? could also fit in this category, insofar as the position I advocate there implies the rejection of causal theories of intentionality. My post on the Buridan's Ass paradox involves a slightly unusual understanding of rationality. I've posted on understanding video games as interactive fictions, and also discussed the rationality of our emotional responses to fiction.

The nature of reality:
I've written several speculative posts on metaphysical topics. So Many Possibilities and More Modality (scroll to the "more detail" section) roughly outline my thoughts on modality; I plan to refine these in an upcoming post. Essential Meanings rejects de re modality, suggesting that modal properties adhere to descriptions, not objects-in-themselves. Similarly, I see truth itself as a feature of language rather than the world itself. See also Truth & Relativism and Alethic Contexualism.

Mixed Metaphysics offers my thoughts on the field as a whole. Universals Overview surveys the various positions in that big debate, and links to further posts where I explore my own ideas in greater detail.

Okay, I think that's just about everything... Oh - and happy new year!


  1. Great post idea Richard, it inspired me in part to write this: I believe, not  

    Posted by Illusive Mind

  2. I didn't have time to read all the links. But I've glad you've come on board the externalist position within epistemology. Have you read Williamson's Knowledge and Its Limits yet?

    With regards to the religion issue, I'd be interested in you taking up atheistic ethics not in terms of what grounds ethics or what ethics is or even whether a person is ethic, but why a person would want to be ethic. You touched on it very, very briefly in the post you link to. But it does seem that most theists can offer fairly compelling arguments here. (As can quasi-theists who accept some kind of immortality such as Buddhists or Platonists)

    Good, interesting post. A summary like this is always worth doing and its a nice collection of your good links as well.


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