Sunday, February 19, 2006

Odds and Ends

We need more entries for the Philosophers' Carnival (which may end up being delayed a day or so in any case). Send in an entry today!

Lewis Powell is creating a website to track "who thinks what" (i.e. which philosophers endorse what theories). Neat idea.

Will Wilkinson points out that commuting makes us miserable, and many of us should be willing to pay more than we currently do in order to avoid or minimize it. Makes me glad I live on campus!

Hugo muses about "noble lies" and beneficial self-deception, and asks why we should care so much about truth. In particular, he challenges the value of truth by asking whether it necessarily makes us happier. But that's the wrong question. (It presupposes that happiness, rather than truth, is what fundamentally matters.) Instead we should ask: is the life of truth better than that of deception? As I prefer subjectivist theories of wellbeing, I think the answer may vary from person to person. For me, I value the pursuit of truth and would be willing to sacrifice some (perhaps not too much) happiness to that end. That's just the sort of life I want to live. But to each their own.

Actually, there is a further connection to be made here. (Besides the obvious instrumental value that true beliefs can have for helping us achieve our other goals.) For on my preferred theory, we are well-off insofar as our idealized (fully informed and rational) selves would endorse our life. That is, (roughly) our lives have value insofar as we would consider them as such were we to know the truth. This leaves open the odd possibility that our idealized selves might judge that we'd be better off living the deceived life. But it remains of core importance that they would judge this while in full possession of the truth.

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