Can God's Existence Be Disproven?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/12/2019 - 2:45am in

Working on my article "Does God Exist" for Think has got me thinking about whether God's existance can be disproven.

Increase in Hiring of Liberal Arts Majors Predicted for 2020

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/12/2019 - 6:07pm in

“The biggest workplace gaps throughout technology evolution will rely on the soft skills that are cultivated by a liberal arts education instead of technical expertise.”

That’s the assessment of Dan Schwabel, business consultant, author, and entrepreneur, in this year’s edition of his “Top 10 Workplace Trends” column, published at LinkedIn. His selection of the top trends is based on “hundreds of conversations with executives and workers, a series of national and global online surveys, and secondary research from more than 450 different research sources, including colleges, consulting firms, non-profits, the government and trade associations.”

Number 6 on his list of trends for 2020 is “the return of the liberal arts major.”

Here’s Schwabel’s elaboration on this particular trend:

AI will automate technical skills and drive the demand for soft skills like creativity, communicate and empathy. While there’s been such a focus on recruiting STEM over the past several years, those majors will continue to lose relevance, while liberal arts majors will become more valuable to companies moving forward. Since 2009, it was believed that STEM degree recipients would have job stability, and command high salaries, while liberal arts majors would be unemployable. The fact is that while liberal arts majors have lower starting salaries, their salaries rise much quicker over the course of their lives than STEM majors. A report by McKinsey  analyzed the jobs that are most susceptible to automation and discovered that jobs that harnessed a workers soft skills are the least likely to be automated. For instance, jobs that involve managing and development people have only a 9% automation potential. The biggest workplace gaps throughout technology evolution will rely on the soft skills that are cultivated by a liberal arts education instead of technical expertise.

We will see an uptick in liberal arts hiring in 2020, which is driven by these gaps and the low unemployment rate. Slack Technologies has half of their leadership team majoring in liberal arts and Infosys is hiring 10,000 employees in the next year, focusing specifically on liberal arts majors. Google crunched their people analytics data and found that STEM skills are the least important when it comes to hiring and soft skills are the most (coaching, communicating, empathy, etc.).

How accurate Schwabel’s tracking of trends is, I don’t know.

(Via an article at Inc. by Jessica Stillman)

The post Increase in Hiring of Liberal Arts Majors Predicted for 2020 appeared first on Daily Nous.

Philosophy Graduate Program Application Information Spreadsheet

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/12/2019 - 3:14am in

Someone created a useful tool for students applying to graduate programs in philosophy: an admissions and application spreadsheet.

It lists many* programs (from North America) along with information about deadlines, test requirements, language requirements, and so on, and provides links to the various graduate programs’ websites.

It was created by a graduate student who initially posted it at The Grad Cafe.

You can access the spreadsheet directly here.

*Not all. For example, the University of South Carolina is missing from the list. Information about that program is here. Feel free to list information about other programs not currently on the spreadsheet in the comments.

The post Philosophy Graduate Program Application Information Spreadsheet appeared first on Daily Nous.


Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 5:00pm in


Links, philosophy

A new Mini-Heap of links…

  1. “There’s no general algorithm for designing experiments to guard them against failure” — Philip Kitcher (Columbia) provides an informative review of a pair of books on problems with biomedical research (via Dan Weiskopf)
  2. “Practical Suggestions for My Cis Colleagues in Philosophy” — some advice, plus a list of resources, from Ray Briggs (Stanford)
  3. “I sometimes characterise my work as a midwife for philosophy—I don’t do the philosophy, but I help bring it into the world!” — an interview with Elizabeth Hannon (of The Forum for Philosophy and the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science)
  4. “On average, replication success rate was 30% and effect sizes were 38 times smaller than those in the original study.” — Jonathan Haidt’s “moral foundations” theory, correlating particular moral concepts with particular political positions, faces replication problems
  5. If contraceptive sex is permissible, then so is gay sex, oral sex, and mutual masturbation—and so it’s not — some of the views, and events in the life, of G.E.M. Anscombe, as detailed by John Schwenkler (FSU), based on his research at U Penn’s Anscombe Archive
  6. “‘Individualistic’ philosophical ethics serves us well… in correcting such misplaced fatalism” — reflections on moral mathematics from Richard Yetter Chappell (Miami)
  7. The Philosopher Cocoon’s excellent series on professional philosophy around the world continues — with a post by Paloma Atencia & Miguel Ángel Sebastian (UNAM) on being philosophers in Mexico

Mini-Heap posts appear when 7 or so new items accumulate in the Heap of Links, the ever-growing collection of items from around the web that may be of interest to philosophers. Discussion welcome.

The Heap of Links consists partly of suggestions from readers; if you find something online that you think would be of interest to the philosophical community, please send it in for consideration for the Heap. Thanks!


The post Mini-Heap appeared first on Daily Nous.

Vavilovian Philosophical Mimicry

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 1:03pm in

It’s been months since I posted! I’ve migrated to twitter. (The flesh is weak – but feel free to follow me!)

I’m going to try to start doing the sane thing. Long posts at CT, like God’s infinite mind intended. Short thoughts on Twitter, like humanity’s mayfly attention span tolerates.

Today I propose a new term in political theory. Vavilovian philosophical mimicry!

It denotes a type of relation between ideal and non-ideal theories. It posits that the former evolves as protective concealment for the latter. [UPDATE: Sometimes. The claim that this is the ONLY possible relation between ideal and non-ideal theories is not plausible.]

To get where the term comes from, read the Wikipedia article. Weeds evolve, under selective pressure, to resemble crops. If you didn’t know that happens, you might deduce it, back of the envelope. (But now you know its name – you’re welcome.)

You might also think: congrats, Holbo, you’ve invented a new, longer word for ideology!

Maybe, but maybe there’s more. To fix ideas, an example. The famous Southern Strategy – Atwater’s infamous statement. Let’s be blunt: you are a racist neo-Confederate. You can’t sell that, as such. But you can emphasize parts of it that sound kinda sorta more libertarian.

Under Vavilovian pressure, white supremacy evolves, rhetorically, to outwardly resemble libertarianism – a philosophical crop plant – to ‘pass’ in environments in which outright expression of white supremacy would be weeded ruthlessly.

You may even get into a situation in which most outward expressions of libertarianism are, as it were, mere mimics. (Because the real deal is a delicate, seminar room varietal. Whereas Vavilovian fake strains are heartland rugged.)

So what thought does ‘Vavilovian’ allow me to express, about relations between ideal and non-ideal political philosophies, that I couldn’t get at with ‘propaganda’ or ‘bullshit’ or ‘spin’ or any of that? (Hell, if I like Russian, what’s wrong with ‘Potemkin’?)

Let me reference an old post, in which I tried (as always!) to defend our Corey from his mistaken critics.

Basically, the perennial knock on Robin on the reactionary mind is that his account is not ‘ideal’ enough. He is thus guilty of uncharity towards conservatives. But the proper defense, as I explain in that post, is that Robin’s theory is not just (moderately) realistic, as opposed to idealistic. But also more unified. Theoretical unity is, after all, an ‘ideal’ value. So Robin is doing ‘ideal theory’ but of a different sort.

We have all these philosophical things we may call politically ‘conservative’, at least in certain lights. Why call them all that, from Ayn Rand to Zarathustra, from Friedman’s “Free To Choose” to Scalia’s Catholicism? Burke, Kirk, Oakeshott, Nozick, Maistre? If you construct the ‘best’ each can be (most ingenious, most seminar room coherent, most intensely true to their ‘better’ angels, most tightly wound around their axiomatic mainsprings) they fly apart. The best version of Nietzsche won’t have anything to do with the best version of Antonin Scalia. But actual Nietzsche and actual Scalia? Those two have a bit more in common. There are plenty of possible Nietzsches and possible Scalias who have interesting things in common.

So, while it is fine to do ‘ideal’ theory by being as charitable as you can to Nietzsche, then Scalia, individually – retail; there is a different sort of ‘ideal’ theory, equally valid, that aims at outlining, as it were, the-best-Nietzsche-that-is-also-related-to-Scalia. The best coherent philosophical conservatism in the wholesale aggregate.

What Robin suggests to fit the bill is, basically, this (I quote this in the other post as well):

Conservatism is the theoretical voice of this animus against the agency of the subordinate classes. It provides the most consistent and profound argument as to why the lower orders should not be allowed to exercise their independent will, why they should not be allowed to govern themselves or the polity. Submission is their first duty, and agency the prerogative of the elite. Though it is often claimed that the left stands for equality while the right stands for freedom, this notion misstates the actual disagreement between right and left. Historically, the conservative has favored liberty for the higher orders and constraint for the lower orders. What the conservative sees and dislikes in equality, in other words, is not a threat to freedom but its extension. For in that extension, he sees a loss of his own freedom. (pp. 7-8)

I think this is basically right. If you read all the things we may call ‘conservative’, in a political philosophy sense, you see something of the sort in ALL of them. And there isn’t anything else we see in ALL of them. Hence this ‘theoretical voice’ is the unifying undertone. Ergo conservatism’s ‘ideal’ voice, in a sense.

To this I am adding: let’s posit, on top, more superficial, Vavilovian harmonics as well.

In a liberal democratic society – one based on egalitarian principles – animus against that is attacked as a kind of alien weed. So expressions of such animus will survive and thrive better if they mimic something that looks consistent with liberal democracy. So: the logic of philosophical conservatism is as follows. A variety of distinct, basically anti-liberal impulses come to resemble each other, philosophically – but superficially! – due to a selection process through which they individually learn to express themselves so as to ‘pass’ as liberal.

UPDATE: It occurs to me I sort of skipped a step here. This is ideal theory-related because – well, let’s take the white supremacy-libertarianism case again. You are proposing doing something that would keep African-Americans down. Why are you doing that? Because that’s what you want. But you can’t say that. But: you can plausibly pretend it’s a (merely temporarily uncomfortable) stage on the way to some sort of ideal libertarian night watchman end-state. The advantage of ideal theory is that it’s – well, not real. Yet. So it’s low commitment, in practical terms. Nominal commitment to some distant, ideally liberal end-state covers a variety of present, anti-liberal sins.

So philosophical conservatism should be theorized in terms of the following four factors:

1) an element of aristocratic anti-liberalism (animus against the agency of the subordinate classes.) Cf. Robin.

2) an element of Vavilovian, pseudo-liberal mimicry. Anti-liberalisms that survive in a liberal environment will tend to look like each other because they are all, as it were, trying to look enough like liberalism to not get weeded out as too anti-liberal. But these resemblances, because they are protective mimicry, are actually misleading. At least superficial.

3) considerable liberal democratic DNA. It’s rare to run into a real, dyed-in-the-wool Joseph de Maistre-type.

4) 2 may result in 3, over time, via ‘fake it until you make it’, if you see what I mean.

I would say more – about Trump – but I promised myself: keep it under 1000 words.

Black Mirror and the 2020 Election: Conclusion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 12:00pm in

My final installment on "The Waldo Moment." A moment that we are likely to repeat.

Black Mirror and the 2020 Election: Political Corruption

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 5:00am in

The idea that all politicians are equally corrupt is a lie told by corrupot politicians to trick people into political complacency.

Free Philosophy Book for Swedish Students

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 1:57am in

All third-year high school students in Sweden can claim a free copy of Alternative facts: On Knowledge and Its Enemies, by Stockholm University philosophy professor Åsa Wikforss.

The book (in Swedish: Alternativa fakta. Om kunskapen och dess fiender) was published in 2017, and addresses questions in epistemology with an eye towards critical thinking, knowledge resistance, the media, disinformation, and propaganda.

The publisher, Fri Tankeexplains why it is offering students free copies of the book:

Threats to knowledge are a growing problem in large parts of the world, even in Sweden. After the 2016 US presidential election, many caught the eye of how dangerous and effective it can be to use fake news and to highlight “alternative facts”. To base our perception of reality on facts is crucial and when knowledge is threatened it has consequences. We see how the measles spread again as a result of vaccine resistance, how climate deniers delay important efforts to counter global warming, and how the new technology is used to spread propaganda and undermine democratic society. The book, Alternative Facts, can be a tool for tackling development and helping students discern lies from truth. 

The book is not party-political at all. It takes a stand for knowledge, facts and objective truth. It takes a stand against post-truth, ignorance, disinformation and propaganda.

The initiative is funded by the publisher along with two of its executives, banker Sven Hagströmer and musician Björn Ulvaeus, who was a member of ABBA. More information here.

(via Erik Angner)

The post Free Philosophy Book for Swedish Students appeared first on Daily Nous.

Philosophical Intuitions and Demographic Differences

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/12/2019 - 8:23pm in

Philosophers are disagreeing over what lessons should be learned from the growing body of work on the interplay between demographics and philosophical intuitions.

Jarke van Wijk – Myriahedral Polyconic Projection Map

In a recent article in Epistemology & Philosophy of Science, Joshua Knobe (Yale) argues that philosophical intuitions are “robust across demographic differences”:

Work in experimental philosophy is often concerned with intuitions about seemingly abstruse issues, such as the nature of the true self or whether the universe is governed by deterministic laws. There was every reason to expect that such intuitions would differ radically between demographic groups. Yet actual research on the topic has yielded a surprising result. Again and again, studies find that effects observed within one demographic group can also be found in a variety of others.

He acknowledges that some differences of philosophical intuitions have been shown across different demographic groups, but then goes over some of the studies to show “the shocking degree to which demographic factors do not impact people’s philosophical intuitions.”

Edouard Machery (Pittsburgh) and Stephen Stich (Rutgers), who are co-principal investigators (with H. Clark Barrett of UCLA) of the Geography of Philosophy Project, have written a reply to Professor Knobe. They argue, among other things, that his conclusion is based on a selective sample of the existing literature, and that a look at more studies shows that the main lesson of them is that there is significant variation in philosophical intuitions across different demographic groups.

What follows are brief presentations of their views by the principals in this dispute. First, we hear from Professors Machery and Stich:

What if philosophical intuitions (however those are characterized) depend on who you are? if men and women tend to have different moral intuitions? if people in East Asia assign free will and responsibility differently from anyone else in the world? if Americans and East Asians have robustly different semantic intuitions? if epistemic intuitions vary systematically between philosophers and non-philosophers?  if people with different personality traits have different intuitions about who has free will?

For more than fifteen years experimental philosophers have examined these possibilities empirically, and have argued that if actual such differences would have dramatic implications for the practice of philosophy (see, e.g., Machery’s Philosophy Within Its Proper Bounds).

But not all experimental philosophers agree about the extent to which philosophical intuitions vary across demographic groups. In “Philosophical Intuitions Are Surprisingly Robust Across Demographic Differences” Joshua Knobe has argued that there is surprisingly little variation in philosophical intuitions across demographic groups. He goes on to suggest that many of these philosophical intuitions may be innate.

We disagree vigorously! In our opinion, there is already substantial, if still incomplete, evidence that philosophical intuitions vary across demographic groups. In our response, we identify 90 studies, with more than 75,000 participants, reporting demographic differences in philosophical intuitions!

In our current project, the Geography of Philosophy, we are also investigating the existence of deep, systematic differences in intuitions about knowledge, understanding, and wisdom all over the world, in both industrialized and small-scale societies.

More important, we believe that it would be a disaster if Knobe’s well-justified reputation as the leading experimental philosopher convinced philosophers, psychologists, and anthropologists that OUR intuitions (i.e., the intuitions of educated, white, wealthy, western people) are human intuitions. 

Our full response can be found here, and the list of studies it’s based on here.

Here is Professor Knobe’s reply:

I am grateful to Machery and Stich for their very helpful paper—definitely an extremely valuable contribution to the literature on this topic—and I’m delighted to have an opportunity to continue the conversation here.  

The basic form of the claim I am defending is not that experimental philosophy has failed to find evidence of something (e.g., that it has failed to find evidence of differences between demographic groups). Rather, the claim is that experimental philosophy successfully has found evidence for something genuinely striking and important. It has found evidence that philosophical intuitions are surprisingly robust across demographic groups. 

My defense of this claim consists of two parts.

First, I review the evidence for robustness. In studies on Western adults, experimental philosophy research has uncovered various intricate, quirky and highly unexpected patterns in people’s intuitions. Experimental philosophers have then asked whether those same patterns also arise in people from other cultures and in very young children. Again and again, the answer has turned out to be yes. The very same patterns that experimental philosophy research has uncovered in Western adults also emerge in these other populations. This is an extremely surprising result, which clearly cries out for explanation.

Second, I look at the studies Machery and Stich cite as evidence of differences in philosophical intuition between demographic groups. Many of these studies are not concerned with demographic differences in the usual sense (culture, age, gender, etc.) but rather with individual differences in personality or cognitive style. Machery and Stich are completely right to say that philosophical intuition are affected by these other individual differences, but I had never meant to call that claim into question. Other studies do in fact show statistically significant differences in intuition between participants from different cultures. These are exactly the right studies to be considering, and I am grateful to Machery and Stich for drawing attention to them. I argue that a closer examination of those studies reveals that, despite the statistically significant differences, those very studies actually provide evidence of an extremely surprising degree robustness across cultures.

At this point, there is really a lot of evidence for robustness. Readers may disagree with some of the claims I make in this paper, but clearly, we are now very far past the point where it could make sense just to ignore the evidence of robustness and focus only on evidence of difference.

My paper is here. Looking forward to continuing the discussion!

Thanks to Professors Knobe, Machery, and Stich for their remarks.

Discussion welcome.

The post Philosophical Intuitions and Demographic Differences appeared first on Daily Nous.

Fire at Harvard’s Philosophy Department

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/12/2019 - 4:51pm in

Emerson Hall, which houses the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University, caught fire last Friday.

Firefighters on the roof of Emerson Hall, Harvard University. Photo by Nicolaus Czarnecki.

Owing to Thanksgiving Break, the building was reportedly empty at the time of the fire, and it caused no injuries.

According to the Harvard Crimson, Acting Fire Chief Gerard E. Mahoney said that the fire began in a chimney-like shaft that runs up inside the building from a generator in the basement. The cause of the fire is unknown, however “construction workers performing a generator test reported just before noon that they smelled smoke in the building.”

The Crimson says, “Firefighters had difficulty accessing the fire because of masonry surrounding the pipe chase. Using axes and power saws, crews made several holes in the roof to ventilate and let in water, Mahoney said. He said the damage from the fire was not extensive.”

Philosophy Department chair Ned Hall reports that the damage from the fire and the water “was fairly contained.” Only a couple of offices, a bathroom, a classroom, and a wall in a hallway were damaged. It was “more than just cosmetic, certainly, but far from a major disaster,” he said, adding, “We were lucky it was caught in time.”

The post Fire at Harvard’s Philosophy Department appeared first on Daily Nous.