Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Philosophical Moves

I find it interesting to learn new philosophical 'moves' or strategies that can be applied in a range of circumstances. Examples I've previously discussed include:

(1) Scanlon's strategy (in Moral Dimensions) for disarming the apparent significance of intent in moral principles (e.g. the doctrine of double effect).

(2) Arpaly's shift from explicit judgments to implicit, deep-rooted responsiveness (in assessing moral character, blameworthiness, rationality, etc.).

(3) Noticing 'Derivative Objections', e.g. when people object to consequentialism on the basis of paradoxes in axiology.

(4) The moves and countermoves available when theorists make use of certain idealizations or counterfactual conditionals in their analyses (potentially falling afoul of the "conditional fallacy").

What (more or less general) philosophical strategies do you find most useful and/or interesting?


  1. Al Hajek is writing either a long paper or a short book called "Philosophical Heuristics", which is a catalogue of philosophical heuristics. I bet you can get a copy by politely requesting one.

    My favorite logic strategy/heuristic is to use duality to argue for the equivalence of superficially different approaches. Why supervaluate when you could subvaluate? Why use acceptance and multiple-premise entailment when you could use denial and multiple-conclusion entailment? This seems to be way more popular in Australia than in the US, for some reason.

  2. (I should say Australasia or at least ANZ so as to be properly polite, shouldn't I?)

  3. Ah, yes, the Hajek work sounds just what I'm after -- thanks for the pointer!

  4. I've had some thoughts on this topic too, over at the Dublin Philosophy Blog here and expecially

    The last example is a move that came up in a debate between Stephen Stich and Geoffrey Sampson on Popperian account of initial language acquisition. It is a certain kind of challenge to the premises of an argument, not a claim that the premises are false, but a claim that ones reasons for accepting one of the premises are reasons for rejecting the other. So no one could be rationally entitled to the premises (and hence the conclusion).

    Among the other 'famous moves' in philosophy I would count Kripke's defence of Russellian accounts of definite descriptions: if a phenomenon would still occur if the analysis were stipulated to be correct, then the existence of the phenomenon cannot be evidence against the analysis.


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