Monday, August 27, 2007

Philosophers' Carnival #52

Welcome to the 52nd edition of the Philosophers' Carnival! If you have no idea what this is, follow the previous link. Otherwise, follow the subsequent ones...

Moral and Political Philosophy

Parableman Jeremy Pierce discusses Judicial Confirmation Philosophy, rejecting two extreme views about the role of the Senate in questioning and confirming judicial nominees:
On this mediating view, nominees should not be expected to comment on individual cases, but they should be expected to be able to present a judicial philosophy... it's fair game to say whether a certain decision was wrongly or rightly decided and what would have been better reasoning if any. It's fair game to comment on what considerations might go into overturning a particular precedent without indicating (as a promise) what one will do, allowing for all manner of alternative considerations to weigh a decision in a different direction. I could say why I think a certain case was wrongly decided while remaining open about whether I'd overturn it. I can also say that I think there's a reason for overturning it while remaining open about other reasons not to overturn it that I may not even have considered. As long as it's kept at that level, you would get some discussion of more substantive issues than what has happened recently. Yet it wouldn't be the politicized mess that we have been getting either.

Peter Thurley writes on the distinction between positive and negative rights:
[T]he enforcement and guaranteeing of a negative right is itself a positive action. If we have the negative right to life, a right that prohibits others from killing us, how can that right be secured without an appeal to a police force, a criminal justice system, lawyers, guards and the appropriate funding from taxes to support such a system?

Granted, it's an empirical question how rights might best be secured, but that won't deter James Wilson at the Philosophy and Bioethics blog, who asks, 'What can political philosophers learn from bioethicists?' His answer: "how to go about applying abstract normative theories to the real world." Whether trying to predict consequences or apply general principles, the task may prove more difficult than expected.

Jean Kazez looks at really good people, and the role of emotions - from compassion to anger - in moral motivation.

As an Editor's Pick, allow me to highlight Chris' informative post at Mixing Memory on recent research into Folk Meta-Ethics:
There's a really interesting paper by Geoffrey Goodwin and John Darley in press at the journal Cognition on the subject of lay meta-ethics, and ethical objectivism specifically. That is, the paper explores the question, "How do lay individuals think about the objectivity of their ethical beliefs?" (from the abstract). The paper contains a ton of data, and I couldn't possibly do it justice in a blog post, but unfortunately, there's no free version online... So you'll have to do with my incomplete discussion of it.

Philosophy of Mind and Biology

Benoit Hardy-Vallée discusses Decision-making and the economy of nature:
[A] biological decision-maker is any agent who can control its behavior. More precisely, in order to have a genuine control over its behavior, an agent must possess control mechanisms, that is, internal structures that process sensory information and motor commands... I would like to suggest here that, contrarily to common wisdom, decision-making is not specifically human, but rather a behavioral control scheme typically found in animals endowed with sensory, motor and control apparatuses, and more specifically brainy animals (craniates, arthropods and cephalopods).

Kate Devitt goes even further, offering an empirically-informed introduction to the remarkable topic of bacterial cognition:
Even though bacteria may not be aware, they certainly have complex behaviour and decision-making worth examining. Bacteria perceive, remember, problem-solve, learn and communicate. Understanding how they make group and individual decisions may contribute importantly to our understanding of cognition across many species including humans.

The Uncredible Hallq discusses Peripheral vision and the limits of introspection, drawing out the implications of the fact that we overestimate the level of detail represented towards the periphery of our visual field.

Bryan Norwood at Movement of Existence presents Arguments for the Necessity of Phenomenology - the view that "approaches our understanding of the world as a result of experienced phenomenon."

Tanasije Gjorgoski asks A Question About Epiphenomenalism (or two):
[It] seems that epiphenomenalist can’t after all accept causal theory of reference, as that would mean that by ‘conscious experience’ she is referring to something physical. So, what kind of grounding of reference does epiphenomenalist buy? Can zombies refer to conscious experience at all?

Language and Epistemology

Richard Brown distinguishes Two Kinds of Semantics:
One might take the semantic task to be that of giving the meaning of and truth-conditions for thoughts... [or] of giving the meaning of sentences independently of their being used to express any thought. This way of thinking about semantics has it as simply a part of grammar. To illustrate, if I say ‘Saul Kripke likes tea’ talking about my dog and you say it talking about Saul Kripke we both use the same sentence, though we refer to different objects.

Aidan McGlynn discusses whether know-how is Gettier-susceptible, and how this question impacts on debates about the relation between knowledge-how and knowledge-that.

Meanwhile, at The Space of Reasons, Avery Archer assesses Naturalising Epistemology: Quine vs. Crumley (Part 2):
Crumley claims that nature may favour belief-forming mechanism that form false beliefs. However, Crumley seems to be overstating the case...

The Primate Diaries argues that neuroscience undermines religious experience:
It's not too much of a stretch to link such phantom limbs with a feeling for God. What's more likely? That an invisible world exists that controls our destiny (but that people around the globe interpret in vastly different ways) or that all humans have similar neural networks that, under certain circumstances, engender a feeling of the divine? A great deal of work has been done in just this area...

Enigman, on the other hand, presents An Argument for Agnosticism - suggesting that the mysteries of theism and atheism balance out.


At The Ends of Thought, Roman Altshuler discusses Philosophical Approaches and their Consistency with the History. His primary concern is to elucidate how both the analytic and continental traditions can be seen as continuing what went before -- be it by offering clear arguments for specific positions, or pressing a broader "cast of thought" or philosophical system.

Finally, Michele Loi has a very interesting post on the partiality of truth and philosophical methodology. He proposes an 'Hegelian' view according to which philosophical progress is best made by synthesizing the various "partial truths" found in existing philosophical traditions. If you have an opposing view, see if you can convince him of its (whole or partial) truth.

That's it for this edition of the Philosophers' Carnival. Many thanks to all who contributed a submission (well, except for the self-help writers who seem to have been misled by the proximity of the 'philosophy' section in their local bookstore)! Only a minority made the final cut -- but the carnival will return in three weeks, this time at the Florida Student Philosophy Blog. You can submit a post here.

If you would like to host a future edition yourself, check out the guidelines here. (There are spaces available in 2008 -- consult the list of 'future hosts'.)


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