Monday, August 23, 2004

Philosophers' Carnival #1

Welcome to the first ever Philosophers' Carnival - a showcase of quality posts from a wide range of philosophy blogs. If I could just pull you away from the candyfloss stand for a moment, you'll notice the many other attractions vying for your attention further down the page. Some were chosen and submitted by their authors - either voluntarily or with a little gentle prodding - whereas others I picked myself because they're just too good to ignore.

First up, we have John of Fake Barn Country with You Can't Get Away With Murder That Easily:
In his article, "How Satisficers Get Away with Murder," Tim Mulgan argues that satisficing consequentialism cannot make good on its promise to avoid the demandingness objection, while at the same time avoid a devastating counterexample.

I disagree.

While at FBC, be sure to also read Allan's Once more unto the breach, a puzzle which inspired several follow-ups (as readers of this blog might recall):
Premise 1: Either we will win the battle, or we will lose the battle.
Premise 2: If we will win the battle, then we ought to attack with a small force.
Premise 3: If we will lose the battle, then we ought to attack with a small force.
Conclusion: We ought to attack with a small force.

Getting back to the topic of murder, there was a gem at Orange Philosophy a while back - Help Me Choose a Murder Victim - which sparked many interesting comments:
Suppose I'm deciding whom to kill, and I want to inflict the most harmful death possible. How old should my victim be?

From Michael Cholbi at PEA Soup, we have Competence and the Condemned:
One moral issue surrounding punishment that has not received enough attention from moral philosophers is the somewhat perverse insistence that those on death row can only be executed if they are competent to be executed.

Shieva Kleinschmidt of Emiratio raises some questions about Conditional Desires:
In Reasons and Persons, Derek Parfit presents us with the category of conditional desires. These are desires that "are implicitly conditional on their own persistence" (p. 151). Parfit uses as an example his desire to swim when the moon rises, which he desires to occur only if, at the time that the moon rises, he still desires to swim. [...] But how should we cash out the notion of a conditional desire?

At Certain Doubts, we have Paradox vs Surprise:
A paradox is different from a result that is merely surprising, but what is the difference? This question touches on matters beyond epistemology, but it is applicable to the major epistemic paradoxes, including preface, lottery, surprise quiz, and knowability. It is the latter that prompts my question.

At The Eye in the Door, Robert Skipper (of Philosophy of Biology fame) discusses Stem Cells and Alzheimer's:
It's been three years since President George W. Bush issued his decision to ban federal funding for stem cell research requiring the destruction of human embryos intentionally created for new lines. But when former President Ronald Reagan died in June of this year of pneumonia related to his struggle with Alzheimer's, the politics of stem cell research became a campaign issue.

Wo's Weblog posts on Harmless Zombies:
A zombie world is a world physically just like our world but in which there is no consciousness. Must a type-A materialist deny the conceivability of zombie worlds? No, not quite.

The Garden of Forking Paths has an active discussion going on in Deny or Deflate:
My friend has heard of a philosophical approach according to which, to determine what, say, responsibility is, we collect the truisms about responsibility and then find the item in the world that best fits them (provided, of course, that something fits well enough). In this way, he's been told, we sometimes learn that things aren't what, in our armchair theorizing, we thought they were.

Maverick Philosopher tackles The God-Man Identity Theory:
Christianity tries to combine transcendence and immanence: God the Father remains radically transcendent, while God the Son enters into history.

Both of the Christian doctrines pose serious logical problems which threaten their coherence.

Jeremy at Prosblogion discusses Open Theism and Evil:
I've gotten the sense that the problem of evil is the primary motivation for many who subscribe to what's commonly called open theism, i.e. the view that God does not know the future, takes risks, and changes his mind due to learning new information.

In a more light-hearted post, Michael of Phluaria argues that God is Made of Gluten:
And so the only reasonable conclusion to draw is: God is made of gluten. (A weaker, and slightly less exciting, implication might be simply that wheat is a divine substance. But why not bite the wafer - I mean, the bullet?)

From Philosophy of Art we have an intriguing suggestion for Bad works, ironic performances:
[T]he Dworkinian method seems to make the work better than it is. The ironic performance builds a critique of the work into a performance of it — it performs the work against its own grain.

Tom of Legalistic Fingerpointing suggests that we Don't throw out our philosophy just yet:
What hijinks! What could I, a soon-to-be-philosophy student, and committed atheist (a- without, -theism religious belief) and skeptic possibly say to answer Fraser's charge that philosophy is a refuge for wooly-thinking theism-collaborators? Well, first, it's imperative that I point out the flaws in his argument.

Experimental Philosophy discusses D.P.P. v. Smith--A New Study:
In this landmark case, jurors in England had to determine the guilt of a man named Smith who had driven a car containing stolen goods in a zigzag course in order to shake off a policeman who had been clinging to the side of the car. When the policeman was finally shaken off, he rolled into oncoming traffic and sustained fatal injuries. I wanted to see whether moral considerations affect people's judgments concerning a) whether Smith knowingly brought about the officer's death, and b) whether Smith intentionally brought about the officer's death. So, I developed two cases--one involving a thief and an officer and another involving a driver and a car-jacker.

Brian Weatherson of Thoughts Arguments and Rants offers the most technically challenging post here, with Exists and Type Raising:
Names, they said, were disguised descriptions, so it’s possible that they can make meaningful contributions to propositions without actually denoting. Nowadays orthodoxy is that that’s wrong, and names are directly referential.

I want to revive a version of the quantificational view.

Uriah of Desert Landscapes posts Against Saving Physicalism by Appeal to a Concept/Property Distinction:
The most popular approach to the explanatory gap, the Knowledge Argument, and the like challenges to physicalism is one developed in the late 80s by Brian Loar and Michael Tye. On this approach, these challenges are premised on a confusion between concepts and the properties for which they are the concepts. Thus, the *concept* of pain and the *concept* of C-fiber firing are so different as to bring up the specter of the explanatory gap; but the property picked out by these concepts is the concept is in fact one and the same. So there is no ontological gap even though there’s an explanatory gap.

Though a committed physicalist, I don’t think this approach works. It misses the force of the explanatory gap.

Update: We also have a last-minute entry from Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise, with The Epistemology of Rape:
Lithwick argues that rape shield laws are unacceptable because they deprive the defendant of potentially exculpatory evidence. If sexual history were more illuminating or less prejudicial, I would agree.

Lastly, Brandon of Siris offers On an Argument for the Existence of Bodies:
My own view on this point is that Malebranche has the stronger argument. In a Cartesian framework, "God is not a deceiver" is a good reliability-ensuring principle at a very general level of the design. That is, if God is not a deceiver, the cognitive faculties he gave us must be able to come to the truth. But there is nothing in the principle to tell us how easy or difficult coming to the truth might be, nor does it seem to give us any certainty about particular beliefs.

Brandon has kindly volunteered to host the next Philosophers' Carnival, which will be held (approximately) a fortnight from now. Remember, we rely on your participation, so don't forget to send in a link to your favourite new post. Emailed submissions for the next carnival should contain the words "Philosophers' Carnival" somewhere in the subject line (for easy identification), and be sent to Brandon at the following email address (spam-proofed: please remove all spaces and replace 'AT' with '@', and 'DOT' with '.'):

bwatson AT chass DOT utoronto DOT ca

We also need more volunteers for future hosts. If you're interested, please send me an email:
r DOT chappell AT gmail DOT com

Enjoy your reading!


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