Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Recent Readings

  • Philosophers' Carnival #71

  • Jonathan Ichikawa's paper 'Who Needs Intuitions?'. (Highly recommended!) Jonathan argues against the common view that philosophers rely on intuitions (in any problematic sense), arguing instead that "it is the [propositional] content of the intuition, not the [psychological] fact of the intuition itself, that plays a key evidentiary role".

  • Michael Gill's 'Moral Rationalism vs. Moral Sentimentalism: Is Morality More Like Math or Beauty?" Introductory, easy to read. Makes the nice point that even 'sentimental' aesthetic judgments may require a great deal of thought (to ensure that one's sentiments are responding to an accurate appreciation of the object in question). But I was bothered by the overly hasty argument that aesthetic claims are contingent because there are other possible worlds for which "what we see as beautiful on this world we will see as non-beautiful on that." What if the counterfactual judgments of non-beauty derive from insensitivity to the relevant (beauty-making) features of the object?

  • Chris Heathwood's 'Subjective Desire Satisfactionism' points out that desire theories of welfare have a problem with 'changing desires' or intra-personal conflict. For example: what if one's past self stubbornly has an unconditional desire to have rock music play at her 60th Birthday party, though the 60-yr old self would hate this? Surely the past desire shouldn't count. On the other hand, Chris points out, we shouldn't ignore all desires about non-present times: "If I strongly want it to be true that, in my drunkenness last night, I did not disgrace myself, surely... this desire is relevant to [my] welfare." Chris' solution is subjective desire satisfactionism, whereby one is made better off by having a belief and a desire both directed at the same proposition at the same time. (Note that it's a form of hedonism: all that matters is your mental states, not whether they are true in fact.) I'm thoroughly unsympathetic to the theory in general, but it's a nice response to the temporal problem, at least.

    (My own response is to insist that a bearer of welfare - a person - must not have temporally inconsistent global preferences after idealization. If young Ellie and old Ellie have different ideal preferences about the 60th birthday party, then - ipso facto - they are two different people: multiple personalities, you might say.)


  1. Just a comment abou The paper you link to about intuition....

    The person confuses what INTUITION is, your intuition is you subconscious recognizing patterns in what you are seeing and prodding you to check them out and reason through them, using a combination of intellectual tools at you disposal.

    It’s that the word intuition is not properly defined at all, it’s poorly conceived.

    Intuition is really about unconscions learning, computational and pattern recognition processes that go on beneath your conscious awareness.

    Most of the human mind is inaccesasble to our conscious minds, we wouldn’t need Neuroscience or biology if our minds were capable of figuring everything out about how we function by itself.

    There is a holistic feedback between our minds and reality, our imagination is just as necessary and powerful as experimentation. It’s a process of idea creation, testing these ideas for congruency against reality, and refining them in growth feedback process which goes on for all of our lives much of which is underneath the surface of our conscious awareness.

  2. How does that conflict with anything in Jonathan's paper? He doesn't say anything about the psychological constitution of intuitions, so you can fill in those details however you want. His point (as I understood it) is simply that there's an ambiguity in talk about propositional attitudes (including intuitions, but also beliefs, etc.). We could be talking about the mental state itself, or we could be talking about the object of the mental state, i.e. the proposition that it is directed at or 'about'. So the claim that "intuitions are evidence" could either mean "mental states are evidence" or "propositions are evidence", and Jonathan argues for the latter. 'Precisely what kind of mental state is an intuition?' is a separate question.

  3. I think the whole problem is that no one understands the basis of logic or geometry. Nor the basis of how one forms concepts.

    The most important questions in my mind are:

    How are concepts formed in the mind? What are they made of? And how do I know this from that? i.e. why is there distinction. To get at what I'm talking about imagine a perfeclty white sheet of paper, the white is indistinct from itself, if we add a black dot on the paper now we have distinction, as soon as distinction exists, we have the concept of number, and also of logic. So we must ask: What is required for the most basic unit of geometry to exist?

    There is only one subject: The universe, it is holistic (all connected) to itself, it's ultimate geometric symmetry is always maintained.

    There is some fundamental logic built into the universe itself, else we couldn't be conscious or make distinctions (red from blue, this from that, left from right, etc).

  4. I'm afraid I cannot discern any coherent criticism in your comment that relates to the topic at hand. You should post such general remarks to your personal blog instead.


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