Home > Philosophers' Carnival > Philosophers’ Carnival No. 147

Philosophers’ Carnival No. 147

January 10, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments


Welcome to the 147th edition of the Philosophers’ Carnival here at Philosophy & Polity! There are some really great posts, running the gamut of everything from philosophy of religion to the intersections of philosophy and science. For whatever reason, this edition seems to have tended toward normative posts. Enjoy!

Kicking things off, Rebecca Roache over at Practical Ethics asks why photographs hold such a hallowed position as the most preferred medium of representation in “Why a Painting is as Good as a Photo on a Passport.” She writes:

For whatever privileged epistemic status photographs may enjoy over other means of pictorial representation is compromised by the process of photograph selection and approval used in passport and driving licence applications. As a result, there seems no obvious case against using handmade pictures (or, rather, photographs of them) in those documents. If the Identity and Passport Service is willing to rely on human judgments about whether photographs are good likenesses of the people they depict, why not also accept handmade pictures judged by the same people to be good likenesses?

On the slightly related note of appearance and perception, S.M.E. over at Rational Conceits offers a treatment of some of the issues concerning our reliance upon our sense organs in order to delineate real and illusory perceptions in “On the Meaning of Veridicality in Perception.” He writes,

Nevertheless, certain of our experiences, such as illusions and hallucinations (as well as dreams and religious mystical experiences), may be regarded as more subjective and idiosyncratic and less veridical than others and so it is reasonable to ask what separates these two classes of experience that they qualify for different linguistic labels.  The answer lies in the spatial locus of the stimulation or energy that initiates the experience, where in space the experience is localized, and also in the fact that each Homo sapiens brain is, with slight exception, a virtual replica of every other.

Continuing in a similar vein of truth and proof, Catarina over at M-Phi discusses the usage and usefulness of indirect proofs in “A Dialogical Conception of Indirect Proofs.” She writes,

If we accept that indirect proofs are a bit of an oddity even within mathematics, it makes sense to ask how on earth this argumentative strategy might have emerged and established itself as one of the most common ways to prove mathematical theorems. Now, as some readers may recall, my current research project focuses on ‘the roots of deduction’, adopting the hypothesis that we need to go back to deduction’s dialogical origins to make sense of the whole thing (as discussed here, for example). And here again, it seems that the dialogical, multi-agent perspective offers fresh insight into the nature of indirect proofs.

Switching gears, at his eponymous blog Ex-Apologist offers a survey of criticisms of Plantinga’s account of warranted belief in “What’s Wrong with Plantinga’s Proper Functionalism?” He says,

With respect to his accounts of warranted theistic and Christian belief: (i) His analysis of warranted Christian belief can’t adequately account for the variability of belief among Christians[7]; (ii) his postulation of a sensus divinitatis in human beings is at odds with the empirical evidence regarding the demographics of theistic belief[8]; and (ironically) (iii) his account entails that the belief of most Christians has little by way of warrant[9]. And of course there’s (iv) the Great Pumpkin Objection. But deeper problems lie with his basic account of warrant.

Sticking with the theme of philosophy of religion, we move on to Helen De Cruz’s post “The Experiential Problem of Evil and Theodicy,” over at Prosblogion. Concerning the litmus test for theodicies, she writes,

Theodicies should not only offer a solution to the abstract problem, but should withstand scrutiny in the face of concrete, horrible instances of evil. and it seems that in concrete cases, theodicies not fare well. For it is one thing to argue that God did not intend the world as a pleasure-garden, but a challenging place fit for spiritual growth (as Hick proposed), quite another to maintain this in the face of concrete instances of evil.

Changing things up again, we move on to Peter Hurford’s post “Good and Ought as End Relative” over at Greatplay.net where he argues that “ought” may be defined such that it refers to the likelihood of something meeting a standard. On this he writes,

I also have proposed a definition of “ought” (and its cousins “can”, “could”, “might”, “may”, “should”, “will”, “must” and their related negatves) as a modal auxilary verb that expresses a likelihood of something being the case, including the likelihood of something meeting a standard. Both of these linguistic views also neatly account for distinctly moral goodness and moral commands as another standard to compare or express the likelihood of meeting. This view of “good” and “ought” is called end-relational theory, because it proposes that “good” and “ought” bothrelate things to ends, or standards of comparison.

Continuing in the normative vein, Eric Schwitzgebel at The Splintered Mind asks whether ethicists who advocate a certain position ought, in some sense, to live out such a position in “Animal Rights Advocate Eats Cheeseburger, So…What?” He concludes,

The ethicist is not setting aside her opinion that eating meat is wrong as she eats that cheeseburger. She does in fact conclude that eating the cheeseburger is wrong. However, she is unmoved by that conclusion. And to be unmoved by that conclusion is to fail in the first-personal task of ethics. A chemist who deliberately causes explosions at home might not be failing in any way as a chemist. But an ethicist who flouts her own vision of the moral law is, I would suggest, in some way, though perhaps not entirely, a failure as an ethicist.

Lastly, Lukeprog over at LessWrong argues that philosophy education is focusing on out-dated arguments and we should instead model our system of education on science in “Train Philosophers with Pearl and Kahneman, not Plato and Kant.” He writes,

Philosophical training should begin with the latest and greatest formal methods (“Pearl” for the probabilistic graphical models made famous in Pearl 1988), and the latest and greatest science (“Kahneman” for the science of human reasoning reviewed in Kahneman 2011). Beginning with Plato and Kant (and company), as most universities do today, both (1) filters for inexact thinkers, as Russell suggested, and (2) teaches people to have too much respect for failed philosophical methods that are out of touch with 20th century breakthroughs in math and science.

That’s it for this edition of the Philosophers’ Carnival! The next edition, No.148 will be hosted at In Search of Logic on February 10th. You can submit posts for consideration, either your own or someone else’s here. See you then!

  1. Vanitas
    January 11, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    “Beginning with Plato and Kant (and company), as most universities do today, both (1) filters for inexact thinkers, as Russell suggested, and (2) teaches people to have too much respect for failed philosophical methods that are out of touch with 20th century breakthroughs in math and science.”

    TRANSLATION: “People disagree with me, and instead of assessing their reasons for disagreeing with me, I will simply re-categorize them as having been brainwashed by inadequate philosophical education.”

    • January 13, 2013 at 6:23 PM

      Hi Vanitas,

      While I’m inclined to disagree with Lukeprog re: the direction and intended goals of a philosophical education, I think he may speak less out of ignorance and more out of a different perspective. As his blog post indicates, he seems to want to view philosophy through the scientific paradigm of discarding those ideas that fail to “shake-out.” For science it may be fairly straight-forward to identify and eliminate those hypotheses and theories that do not hold water. In contrast, philosophy does have this in the form of peer-reviewing journal articles, etc. to help refine papers before they make it into print, but I am not sure that trying to eliminate “failed philosophical methods” would work for philosophy. There are many reasons for this, but chief among them is that we often see the pendulum of thought swing back and forth between philosophical approaches or stances, and attempting to eliminate one would likely only demonstrate the peculiarities of the dominant viewpoint at any given time rather than those philosophies that are, objectively “successful.”

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