Input Sought on New Questions for Upcoming PhilPapers Survey of Philosophers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/10/2019 - 4:49am in



A draft of the follow-up to the 2009 Philpapers survey of philosophical positions held by academic philosophers on various topics includes about 70 new questions.

The survey’s creators, David Bourget (Western University) and David Chalmers (NYU), are seeking input from members of the profession about the new questions. (Previously.)

Gerhard Richter, “1025 Farben”

The new survey will include the original 30 questions, plus 10 new ones that will be asked of all respondents, and 60 new ones that will each be asked of 25% of the respondents. So each respondent will be asked to answer around 55 questions. They will also be given the option to answer more, up to the total of around 100 questions.

Here are the original 30 questions:

  • A priori knowledge: yes or no?
  • Abstract objects: Platonism or nominalism?
  • Aesthetic value: objective or subjective?
  • Analytic-synthetic distinction: yes or no?
  • Epistemic justification: internalism or externalism?
  • External world: idealism, skepticism, or non-skeptical realism?
  • Free will: compatibilism, libertarianism, or no free will?
  • God: theism or atheism?
  • Knowledge: empiricism or rationalism?
  • Knowledge claims: contextualism, relativism, or invariantism?
  • Laws of nature: Humean or non-Humean?
  • Logic: classical or non-classical?
  • Mental content: internalism or externalism?
  • Meta-ethics: moral realism or moral anti-realism?
  • Metaphilosophy: naturalism or non-naturalism?
  • Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism?
  • Moral judgment: cognitivism or non-cognitivism?
  • Moral motivation: internalism or externalism?
  • Newcomb’s problem: one box or two boxes?
  • Normative ethics: deontology, consequentialism, or virtue ethics?
  • Perceptual experience: disjunctivism, qualia theory, representationalism, or sense-datum theory?
  • Personal identity: biological view, psychological view, or further-fact view?
  • Politics: communitarianism, egalitarianism, or libertarianism?
  • Proper names: Fregean or Millian?
  • Science: scientific realism or scientific anti-realism?
  • Teletransporter (new matter): survival or death?
  • Time: A-theory or B-theory?
  • Trolley problem (five straight ahead, one on side track, turn requires switching, what ought one do?): switch or don’t switch?
  • Truth: correspondence, deflationary, or epistemic?
  • Zombies: inconceivable, conceivable but not metaphysically possible, or metaphysically possible?

Here are the 10 new questions that will be asked of all respondents:

  • Consciousness: dualism, eliminativism, functionalism, identity theory, panpsychism?
  • Eating animals and animal products (are they permissible in ordinary circumstances?): omnivorism (yes and yes), vegetarianism (no and yes), veganism (no and no)
  • Experience machine (is it rational to enter?): yes or no?
  • Footbridge (pushing man off bridge will save five on track below, what ought one do?): push or don’t push?
  • Gender: biological, psychological, social, unreal?
  • Meaning of life: subjective, objective, nonexistent?
  • Philosophical knowledge (is there any?): none, a little, a lot?
  • Quantum mechanics: collapse, hidden-variables, many-worlds, or epistemic?
  • Race: biological, social, unreal?
  • Vagueness: epistemic, metaphysical, or semantic?

And here are the additional questions, each of which will be asked of a quarter of the respondents:

  • Abortion (in ordinary conditions): permissible or impermissible?
  • Arguments for theism (which is strongest?): cosmological, design, ontological, pragmatic, moral?
  • Aristotle (does he hold that virtue is necessary or sufficient for happiness?): necessary, sufficient, both, neither?
  • Belief or credence (which is more fundamental?): belief, credence, neither?
  • Capital punishment: permissible or impermissible?
  • Causation: Humean, non-Humean, eliminativism?
  • Causal relevance: counterfactual dependence, probability-raising, intervention, nomological relation, connecting process?
  • Chinese room: understands or doesn’t understand?
  • Concepts: nativism or empiricism?
  • Continuum hypothesis (does it have a determinate truth-value?): determinate, indeterminate?
  • Cosmological fine-tuning (what explains it?): design, multiverse, nothing?
  • Criminal punishment (what is its primary justification?): retribution, restoration, rehabilitation, deterrence?
  • Environmental ethics: anthropocentric or non-anthropocentric?
  • Epistemic justification: coherentism, nonreliabilist foundationalism, reliabilism?
  • Extended mind: yes or no?
  • Gender categories: preserve, revise, or eliminate?
  • Genetic engineering: permissible or impermissible?
  • Grounds of intentionality: causal/teleological, inferential, interpretational, phenomenal, primitive?
  • Hard problem of consciousness (is there one?): yes or no?
  • Kant (what is his view?): one world or two worlds?
  • Hume (what is his view?): skeptic or naturalist?
  • Immigration: open borders, some restrictions, heavy restrictions?
  • Immortality (would you choose it?): yes or no?
  • Indicative conditionals (what are their truth-conditions?): material conditionals, possible-worlds truth-conditions, no truth-conditions?
  • Interlevel metaphysics (which is the most useful?): grounding, identity, realization, supervenience?
  • Law: legal positivism or legal non-positivism?
  • Material composition: nihilism, restrictivism, or universalism?
  • Mathematics: constructivism, formalism, intuitionism, logicism, or structuralism?
  • Meta-ethics: non-naturalism, naturalist realism, constructivism, expressivism, error theory?
  • Metaontology: heavyweight realism, deflationary realism, anti-realism?
  • Method in history of philosophy: analytic or contextual?
  • Method in political philosophy: ideal theory or non-ideal theory?
  • Mind uploading: survival or death?
  • Moral duty to obey the law: yes or no?
  • Moral principles: moral generalism or moral particularism?
  • Other minds (for which groups are some members conscious?): adult humans, cats, fish, flies, worms, plants, particles, newborn babies, current AI systems, future AI systems [allow multiple answers].
  • Ought implies can: yes or no?
  • Peer disagreement (shared first-order evidence, A has responded rightly to it, should A reduce confidence?): conciliate fully (equal weight), conciliate somewhat, stand fast?
  • Philosophical progress (is there any?): none, a little, a lot
  • Philosophical methods (which methods are the most useful/important?): conceptual analysis, empirical philosophy, experimental philosophy, formal philosophy, intuition-based philosophy, linguistic philosophy? [allow multiple answers]
  • Plato (what is his view?): knowledge only of forms, knowledge also of concrete things?
  • Politics: capitalism or socialism?
  • Possible worlds: abstract, concrete, or nonexistent?
  • Properties: classes, immanent universals, transcendent universals, tropes, nonexistent?
  • Practical reason: Aristotelian, Humean, or Kantian?
  • Propositional attitudes: dispositional, phenomenal, representational, nonexistent?
  • Propositions: sets, structured entities, simple, acts, nonexistent?
  • Race categories: preserve, revise, or eliminate?
  • Reference: causal, descriptive, deflationary?
  • Response to external-world skepticism (which is strongest?): abductive, contextualist, dogmatist, externalist, pragmatic?
  • Rational disagreement (can two people with the same evidence rationally disagree): uniqueness or permissiveness?
  • Sleeping beauty (woken once if heads, woken twice if tails, credence in heads on waking?): one-third or one-half?
  • Spacetime: relationism or substantivalism?
  • Statue and lump: one thing or two things?
  • Temporal ontology: presentism, eternalism, or growing block?
  • Time travel: metaphysically possible or metaphysically impossible?
  • True contradictions: impossible, possible but non-actual, actual?
  • Units of selection: genes, organisms, or groups?
  • Values in science (is ideal scientific reasoning necessarily sensitive or insensitive to non-epistemic values?): necessarily value-free, necessarily value-laden, sometimes both?
  • Well-being: hedonism, desire satisfaction, objective list?
  • Wittgenstein: early or late?

Bourget and Chalmers have set up a page with these questions, requests for questions in certain areas, other possible questions arranged by subject, and further information about the survey. Your thoughts are welcome at a page there, and also in the comments here.


The post Input Sought on New Questions for Upcoming PhilPapers Survey of Philosophers appeared first on Daily Nous.

Which Video Games for Which Philosophical Lessons?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 17/10/2019 - 12:32am in

It’s not unusual to solicit books, movies, and television shows that might be particularly useful for teaching about certain philosophical problems. What about video games?

a scene from the virtual reality video game “Superhot”

We had a post about this nearly five years ago, but it did not get much uptake. In the interim, the video gaming industry has continued to grow, and so has the share of the population playing these games. According to one recent report, 65% of American adults play videogames, and according to another, nearly 80% of all gamers are 18 years old or older, with half of that group being over 36 years old.

Katia Samoilova, an assistant professor of philosophy at California State University, Chico, recently created a “Philosophy and Video Games” introductory course. In a news item at the CSU Chico site, she says, “Nothing is better than a video game at immersing in an experience, and specifically, testing thought experiments,” adding that “video game content rivals in its richness other media, including much… philosophical literature.” Mass Effect and The Witcher are two examples of such games named in the article.

It would be great to get some more examples of video games that could be effectively used in the teaching of philosophy, along with a brief explanation of their usefulness. Which particular games speak to which particular philosophical questions, problems, or topics?

Related: “Virtual Worlds and Video Games in Philosophy Teaching“; “New: Journal of the Philosophy of Games“; “Philosophy Teaching Games“; “Philosophy Game Jam“; “Philosopher App Store Redux

The post Which Video Games for Which Philosophical Lessons? appeared first on Daily Nous.

Videoconferencing for Climate Practice (guest post by Colin Marshall and Sinan Dogramaci)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/10/2019 - 11:08pm in

The following is a guest post*  discussing the practice of making videoconferencing a regular component of academic conferences and the like, for the sake of the environment, by  Colin Marshall (UW Seattle) and Sinan Dogramaci (UT Austin).

It follows up on Professor Marshall’s previous post, “Flying Less, Videoconferencing More“.

Pete Mauney, time-lapse photograph of planes at night

Videoconferencing for Climate Practice
by Colin Marshall and Sinan Dogramaci

Fellow colloquia/conference/workshop organizers: please join us in adopting the Videoconferencing for Climate Practice!

The idea is simple. By using more videoconferencing, we can both reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and make the discipline more inclusive in a very cost-effective way.


Colloquium and events organizers who adopt the Practice aim to


  • Have a significant percentage (at least 15%) of talks and presentations be done remotely—in particular, through videoconferencing—instead of using air travel, and
  • Find additional ways to improve the climate impacts of our professional activities, especially at the institutional level (universities, professional associations, and governments). These include aiming for higher percentages of remote and local talks, institutional support for buying carbon offsets, institutional divestment from problematic industries, and finding ways to directly influence local and national governments.

A wide adoption of the Practice would have two effects: (1) reducing greenhouse gas emissions, thereby helping physical climate and (2) expanding the number of people who can participate in professional activities, improving social climate.


A more detailed explanation and justification for the practice can be found here.

There are a variety of ways an organizer can adopt the practice. One would be to include a line like the following in all invitations:

“We would be delighted to have you join us in person. We have also adopting the Videoconferencing for Climate Practice, however, and so would also would welcome you to present and discuss your work using videoconferencing technology.”


We are by no means alone in thinking that academics should move towards more videoconferencing (without, of course, replacing all in-person talks). See, for example:


Crucially, adopting the Practice is far from a complete response to the moral challenges relating to climate change and inclusiveness. For important clarifications, see again the longer description of the Practice.


Some organizers, departments, and associations might not find the Practice the right fit for them. If so, we hope they will develop and publicize their own climate-focused policies and practices.


The post Videoconferencing for Climate Practice (guest post by Colin Marshall and Sinan Dogramaci) appeared first on Daily Nous.

How Do I Figure Out What To Think? (guest post by Martin Lenz)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/10/2019 - 1:27am in



“Picking a side helps you to play the game. But it doesn’t help you in figuring out what you should think. In other words, in order to work out what to think, you don’t have to pick a side at all.”

In the following guest post*, Martin Lenz, professor of philosophy at the University of Groningen, takes up the question of how, if at all, one should go about determining which positions to take on philosophical issues. A version of it originally appeared at his blog, Handling Ideas.

Victor Vasarely, “Novae”

How Do I Figure Out What To Think?
by Martin Lenz

Which view of the matter is right? When I started out studying philosophy, I had a problem that often continues to haunt me. Reading a paper on a given topic, I thought: yes, that makes sense! Reading a counterargument the next day, I thought: right, that makes more sense! Reading a defense of paper one, I thought: oh, I had better swing back. Talking to others about it, I found there were two groups of people: those who had made up their mind for one side, and those who admitted to swinging back and forth just like I did. I guess we all experience this swinging back and forth in many aspects of life, but in philosophy it felt unsettling because there seemed to be the option of just betting on the wrong horse. But there was something even worse than betting on the wrong horse and finding myself in disagreement with someone I respected. It was the insight that I had no clue how to make up my mind in such questions. How did people end up being compatibilists about freedom and determinism? Why do you end up calling yourself an externalist about meaning? Why do you think that Ruth Millikan or Nietzsche make more sense than Jerry Fodor or Kant? I thought very hard about these and related questions and came up with different answers, but today I thought: right, I actually have something to say about it! So here we go.

Let’s first see how the unsettling feeling arises. The way much philosophy is taught is by setting out a problem and then presenting options to solve it. Sometimes they are presented more historically, like: Nietzsche tried to refute Schopenhauer. Sometimes they are presented as theoretical alternatives, like: this is an argument for compatibilism and here is a problem for that argument. I had a number of reactions to such scenarios, but my basic response was not: right, so these are the options. It was rather: I have no idea how to oversee them. How was I supposed to make up my mind? Surely that would require overseeing all the consequences and possible counterarguments, when I already had trouble getting the presented position in the first place. I went away with three impressions: (1) a feeling of confusion, (2) the feeling that some of the views must be better than others, and (3) the assumption that I had to make up my mind about these options. But I couldn’t! Ergo, I sucked at philosophy.

In this muddle, the history of philosophy seemed to come to the rescue. It seemed to promise that I didn’t have to make up my mind, but merely give accurate accounts of encountered views. Ha! The sense of relief didn’t last long. First, you still have to make up your mind about interpretations, and somehow the views presented in primary texts still seemed to pull me in different directions. My problem wasn’t solved but worsened, because now you were supposed to figure out philological nuances and historical details on top of everything else. Ergo, the very idea of reporting ideas without picking a side turned out to be misguiding.

Back to square one, I eventually made what I thought was a bold move: I just picked a side, more or less at random. The unease about not seeing through the view I had picked didn’t really go away, but who cares: we’re all just finite mortals! Having picked a side gave me a new feeling: confidence. I had not seen the light, but hey, I belonged to a group, and some people in that group surely had advanced. Picking a side feels random only at the beginning: then things fall into place; soon you start to foresee and refute counterarguments; what your interlocutors say matters in a new way. You listen not just in an attempt to understand the view “an sich”, but you’re involved. Tensions arise. It’s fun, at least for a while. In any case, picking a side counters lack of confidence: it gives your work direction and makes exchanges meaningful.

For better or worse, I would recommend picking a side if your confusion gets the better of you all the time—at least as a pragmatic device. It’s how you make things fall into place and can take your first steps. However, the unease doesn’t go away. At least for me it didn’t. Why? Let’s face it, I often felt like an actor who impersonates someone who has a view. Two questions remained: What if people could find out that I had just randomly picked a side? This is part of what nourished impostor syndrome (for the wrong reasons, as might turn out later). And how could I work out what I should really think about certain things? While getting a job partly helped with the first question, a lot of my mode of working revolves around the second question. I got very interested in questions of norms, of methodology, and the relation between philosophy and its history. And while these issues are intriguing in their own right, they also helped me with the questions of what to think and how to figure out what to think. So here are a few steps I’d like to consider.

Step one: You don’t have to pick a side. It helps to look more closely at the effect of picking a side. I said that it gave direction and meaning to my exchanges. It did. But how? Picking a side means to enter a game, by and large an adversarial game. If you pick a side, then it seems that there is a right and wrong side just as there is winning and losing in an argumentative setting. Well, I certainly think there is winning and losing. But I doubt that there is right and wrong involved in picking a side. So here is my thesis: Picking a side helps you to play the game. But it doesn’t help you in figuring out what you should think. In other words, in order to work out what to think, you don’t have to pick a side at all.

Step two: Picking a side does not lead you to the truth. As I noted, the way much philosophy is taught to us is by setting out a problem and then presenting options to solve it. The options are set up as better or worse options. And now it seems that picking a side does not only associate you with winning, say, a certain argument, but also with truth. And the truth is what you should think and be convinced of, right? But winning an argument doesn’t (necessarily) mean to hit on the truth of a matter. The fact that you win in an exchange does not mean that you win the next crucial exchange. In fact, it’s at least possible that you win every argument and never hit on any truth. It’s merely the adversarial practice of philosophy that creates the illusion that winning is related to finding the truth.

Now you might want to object that I got things the wrong way round. We argue, not to win, but about what’s true. That doesn’t make winning automatically true, but neither does it dissociate truth from arguing. Let’s look at an example: You can argue about whether it was the gardener or the butler who committed the murder. Of course, you might win but end up convicting, wrongly, the gardener. Now that does show that not all arguments bring out the truth. But they still can decide between true and false options. Let me address this challenge in the next step.

Step three: In philosophy, there are no sides. It’s true that presenting philosophical theories as true or false, or at least as better or worse solutions to a given problem makes them look like gardeners or butlers in a whodunit. Like a crime novel, problems have solutions, and if not one solution, then at least one kind of solution. This is certainly true of certain problems. Asking about an individual cause or element as being responsible or decisive is the sort of setting that allows for true and false answers. But the problems of philosophy are hardly ever of that sort. To see this, consider the example again. Mutatis mutandis, what matters to the philosopher is not mainly who committed the crime, but whether the gardener and the butler have reasons to commit the murder. And once someone pins down the gardener as the culprit, philosophers will likely raise the question whether we have overlooked other suspects or whether the supposed culprit is really to blame (rather than, say, society). This might sound as if I were making fun of philosophy, but the point is that philosophers are more engaged in understanding than in providing the one true account.

How does understanding differ from solving a problem? Understanding involves understanding both or all the options and trying to see where they lead. Understanding is a comprehensive analysis of an issue and an attempt to integrate as many facts as possible in that analysis. This actually involves translating contrary accounts into one another and seeing how different theories deal with the (supposedly) same facts. Rather than pinning down the murderer you’ll be asking what murder is. But most of the time, it’s not your job to conclusively decide what murder is (in the sense of what should count as murder in a given jurisdiction), but to analyse the factual and conceptual space of murder. Yes, we can carve up that space differently. But this carving up is not competitive; rather it tells us something about our carving tools. To use a different analogy, asking which philosophical theory is right is like asking whether you should play a certain melody on the piano or on the trombone. There are differences: the kinds of moves you need to make to produce the notes on a trombone differ vastly from those you need to make on the piano. Oh, and your preference might differ. But would you really want to say there is a side to be taken? Ha! You might say that you can’t produce chords on a trombone, so it’s less qualified for playing chord changes. Well, just get more trombone players then!

I know that the foregoing steps raise a number of questions, which is why I will be dedicating a number of posts to this issue. To return to swinging back and forth between contrary options, this feeling does not indicate that you are undecided. It indicates that you are trying to understand different options in a setting. Ultimately, this feeling measures our attempts to integrate new facts, while we are confronted with pressures arising from observing people who actually adhere to one side or another. For the time being, I’d like to conclude by repeating that it is the adversarial style that creates the illusion that winning and losing are related to giving true and false accounts. The very idea of having to pick a side is, while understandable in the current style of playing the game, misguided. If there are sides, they are already picked, rooted in what we call perspectives. In other words, one need not worry which side to choose, but rather think through the side you already find yourself on. There are no wrong sides. Philosophy is not a whodunit. And the piano might be out of tune.

The post How Do I Figure Out What To Think? (guest post by Martin Lenz) appeared first on Daily Nous.


Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/10/2019 - 11:06pm in


Links, philosophy

The latest links from the Heap…

  1. “People who we thought had high self-control to achieve great life outcomes instead are really good at forming the right habits. They seem to understand the influence of situations and choose ones in which it’s easier to repeat desired actions.” — Wendy Wood (USC) on habits
  2. Why worry about AI? — Evan Selinger (RIT) surveys the array of reasons
  3. Attention may seem like the brain casting a “spotlight”, but it is closer to the metaphor of “lowering the lights on everything else” — recent work on the neuroscience of attention and the importance of “filtering”
  4. “Now, today, going to the museum and putting on one’s serious-art-face is something very, very different from going to the national park and putting on one’s nature-loving-face.” — Justin E.H. Smith (Paris) on Nabokov, Kant, art, and nature
  5. The San Francisco Urban Film Fest has a philosophy advisor — the benefits are a two-way street, says Ron Sundstrom (U. San Francisco)
  6. “Traditional school debate discourages the kind of listening and reasoning that is critical to a healthy democracy… [it] doesn’t have to be this way, though — Jon Ellis (UC Santa Cruz) and Francesca Hovagimian (Berkeley) on the virtues of ethics bowls (NYT)
  7. “It’s a weird thing to have your book appear as a character on a TV show. It’s sort of like having your child chosen to be in the school play. You’re pleased that they’re there, but worried that something embarrassing is going to happen.” — a brief interview with T.M. Scanlon (Harvard)

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.

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.

University to “Align” Philosophy Major with Catholic Studies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 14/10/2019 - 11:04pm in


Budget, philosophy

The trustees of Newman University, a Catholic university in Kansas, have approved a plan proposed by the administration that will revise its philosophy and theology programs so that they “align strategically” with its new School of Catholic Studies. 

The administration also plans to eliminate four major programs, but it is unclear at this point whether philosophy would be among them.

Also unclear is what it means for the philosophy program to “align strategically” with the School of Catholic Studies. It could primarily be an administrative and staff consolidation with only indirect effects on how philosophy is taught at the school. Or it could be an attempt to explicitly influence the content and teaching of philosophy courses in a way that furthers the aim of the School of Catholic Studies, which is to reinforce “core values” such as “Catholic Identity” and provide “students authentic and transformational opportunities to grow in their faith during their collegiate journey.” (Inquiries about this to Newman University administration have yet to be answered.)

Newman philosophy professor Christopher Fox was interviewed for a story on these changes by the school paper, The Vantage, about which he expressed concerns regarding “Newman’s ability to stay a place where knowledge is produced, and the diversity of views is supported.”

The Vantage reports: “Fox said with the realignment of his department with the school of Catholic Studies, and the university’s broader aim of reducing faculty positions, he expects that he will lose his job—in part, he said, because he has been prohibited from teaching philosophy to the seminarians. ‘They said it’s because I used bad words in class,’ he said.”

Perhaps relatedly, Newman University has faced a number of wrongful termination lawsuits over the past couple of years.

The post University to “Align” Philosophy Major with Catholic Studies appeared first on Daily Nous.

Online Philosophy Resources Weekly Update

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 14/10/2019 - 3:38pm in

Here’s the weekly report on new entries in online philosophical resources and new reviews of philosophy books.

Below is a list of recent updates, if there have been any, to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP), Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (NDPR), 1000-Word Philosophy, and Wireless Philosophy (Wi-Phi). There’s also a section listing recent reviews of philosophy books appearing in popular media.




  1. Personal Identity and Ethics, by David Shoemaker.
  2. John Duns Scotus, by Thomas Williams.
  3. Relational Quantum Mechanics, by Federico Laudisa and Carlo Rovelli.



  1. Emanuel Viebahn (Humboldt University of Berlin) reviews Lying: Language, Knowledge, Ethics, and Politics (Oxford), by Eliot Michaelson and Andreas Stokke (eds.).
  2. Marta Jorba (University of the Basque Country) reviews Inner Speech: New Voices (Oxford), by Peter Langland-Hassan and Agustín Vicente (eds.).
  3. Christian Helmut Wenzel (National Taiwan University) reviews Manipulated Agents: A Window to Moral Responsibility (Oxford), by Alfred R. Mele.

1000-Word Philosophy

Wireless Philosophy

Recent Philosophy Book Reviews in Non-Academic Media

  1. Thinking and Being by Irad Kimhi is reviewed by Steven Methven at The Point Magazine.
  2. Becoming Beauvoir: A Life by Kate Kirkpatrick is reviewed by Skye Cleary at Los Angeles Review of Books.
  3. Should We Colonize Other Planets? by Adam Morton is reviewed by Priyamvada Natarajan at New York Review of Books (possible paywall).
  4. Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us by Simon Critchley is reviewed by James Romm at New York Review of Books (possible paywall).
  5. An Instinct for Truth: Curiosity and the Moral Character of Science by Robert T. Pennock is reviewed at Times Higher Education.

Compiled by Michael Glawson

Bonus: Issues in the non-ideal political philosophy of time travel.

The post Online Philosophy Resources Weekly Update appeared first on Daily Nous.

More of Wittich’s Anti-Spinoza: the Criticism of Part 1, Definition 3

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 13/10/2019 - 11:45pm in



More of Wittich’s Anti-Spinoza: the Criticism of Ethics, Part 1, Definition 3

Definition 3: By substance I understand that which is in itself and conceived by itself; that is, that whose concept does not require the concept of another thing from which it must be formed.


The author can here be observed committing the same error as we have already noted in Definition 1, namely second notions are considered in abstraction from their particulars, before their particulars are grasped. In this way it comes about that we really grasp a shadow and do violence to human thought, since all people understand by substance a particular thing among extant things — God, a mind, a body. Considering in these particular things that which is real [12] they find infinite thought in God, finite thought in the mind, and extension in the body. But now a philosopher meditates in his soul, and reflects that all these (infinite thought, finite thought, and extension) are real and extant, as they are understood by themselves and alone and represented in ideas such that there is nothing else in them from which they could be taken away. He then understands such things alone to subsist in full form and thus calls them substances, thus forming the abstract notion of substance, which is a thing that is understood by itself and alone, and so is by itself in that there is nothing from which it could be taken away.

But this notion, as is apparent from this statement, is not understood clearly enough unless the mind refers to one or other of the particulars. Our mind must grasp some particular by this notion, lest it falter and take the notion for an existing thing, thus mistaking the shadow for the body.

And this notion of substance strictly and properly speaking will be abstract and aptly understood in this way. And it will be distinguished from substance taken widely, since others are included in substance taken widely. For some thing either is really by itself, as God, the mind, the body, or as our mode of considering it, as a square shape, motion, etc. Where we have some certain form, nature, or essence, this is equivalent to substance taken widely, since substance taken widely is the same as the essence of some thing: ousia, as Aristotle said — form, or nature. Thus a figure is a substance taken widely, but must be called an accident if compared with a substance strictly accepted.

Now by this definition of Spinoza we are in the end led, as is later shown, to there being but one substance, God; all other beings are modes of this substance. Without doubt this defines substance strictly speaking. But here it is helpful, in order to understand the matter most distinctly, and so that we can distinguish the notion of substance from a thing that is substance, to attend to the origin of these abstractions and the name brought about by such abstraction. Substance, if we attend to the origin of the words, is named from stare, which is to subsists of itself, and from the preposition sub. It thus signifies that which subsists of itself and is the subject of another, which does not stand by itself and therefore is called accident. [13]

But since substance is called being by itself, this being must be properly unpacked. But this, the word Is, is in its first and simplest signification only said about a thing by which we are affected in our soul, which is nothing other than the first act of will or affirmation, which posits nothing in the thing that was not first under the intellect. Thus the will does not know or embrace anything that the intellect does not propose to affirm and know without confusion and obscurity. And so to the idea in the intellect is added the act of will, which knows what the intellect reveals in the idea. This recognition of the will is the first meaning of the word Is.

But this is very general and common, since it is used of apparent things, of thoughts, and of things existing outside of thought. When applied to thoughts and apparent things, as when I say heat is or pain is, the idea is considered in its actual rather than representative being, as something in my mind — some act in my intellect, and this is the sense of these propositions. That idea, which represents something to me, which I call either pain or heat, is really in my intellect. And so the will only accedes to what is in the intellect itself and does not refer what is grasped in the intellect to what is outside the intellect.

But when it is used for what is outside the intellect, the idea is considered in its representative being and insofar as it supposits for the thing it represents, as when I say a Triangle is or a Body is. Here it is not only a triangle or body in thought that is signified but beyond this a triangle or body outside of thought — an extant thing (since the idea of a triangle or body in thought represents something outside thought). Again the word Is again signifies nothing other than the act of the will, which grasps that which the intellect represents, but here it grasps it not with a relation of existence to the intellect, but with a relation of existence outside of it. And thus, when I say a triangle or a body is, I mean that to these ideas, which I have in my intellect, something answers that is not in the intellect itself but outside of it.

But now this existence outside the intellect is again distinguished. For one idea represents it so that we can call it being by itself; the other so that we can call it being in another. [14] And this being by itself is what constitutes the nature of substance strictly speaking, while being in another can have its place among substances broadly taken. Therefore when something exists outside the intellect so that it is in itself and not in another, thus does not depend on another as a subject, it is called being by itself. In this way what is by itself is not in another, and not from another, nor depending on another as its subject. This we can call authuparxia.

But we must not be dragged further to conceive of substance as depending on no other thing as a cause, which is the sense in which Spinoza has accepted this definition. This is shown from this: that he tries in what follows to show God to be the only Substance, while created things are only various modes of this substance. Also we can read this in the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, p.386: “If a thing is in itself, or as the vulgar say, cause of itself then it should be understood only by its essence. But if a thing is not in itself, but requires a cause to exist, then it should be understood by its proximate cause.”

It was not right, however, to take these phrases, in itself and by itself in a completely different sense from that in which others are accustomed to use them. In any case, those things that are extant outside the intellect are either in another subject, or are not in another subject but rather in themselves, or are such that no extrinsic cause for them can be found and their own nature and greatest power suffices for their existence. Surely these three can be distinguished by nature, and consequently the third should no more be confused with the second than the second with the first, contrary to what Spinoza has done. The first is that commonly called accident, the next is substance, the third is given the name uncreated and independent substance, and is not to be confused with created substance.

Without doubt, therefore, the idea that Spinoza has of substance is feigned, thus according to the ideas philosophised in the Treatise on the Emendation it will not be true, so that this definition of substance in the sense Spinoza accepts it does not express a true idea and consequently will not be a true definition. Will this then be the principle and foundation upon which we will build the structure of demonstrations and many truths? A true definition, according to Spinoza himself, as we have seen in the preface (On the Method of Demonstration), must have a determinate object. Nor does it suffice that someone should say he wants to understand something by some word that departs from common use. Nor truly is it permitted, when one inquires [15] into things that are really found in nature, to understand words by which people commonly express and signify things to mean something different from what they normally understand them to mean, unless somebody wishes to be counted among those people who sweetly philosophise, not about things that are in the world, but about the figments of their own brains — that is, who are delirious.

“An Optimistic Bet”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 13/10/2019 - 12:51am in

The relationship between truth and social progress is then an optimistic bet. I hope that knowing the truth is part of what sets us free. But that’s an empirical hunch that could well turn out to be wrong.

That’s Elizabeth Barnes, professor of philosophy at the University of Virginia, in a wide-ranging interview by Richard Marshall at 3:16. I draw particular attention to that line because I think it gets at an underexplored element of philosophizing: philosophers’ hopes or “optimistic bets” that certain things turn out to be true. The contents of these hopes aren’t assumed to be true, but they aren’t thought of as mere possibilities, either, as they have a kind of motivating power towards doing philosophy, and towards exploring some lines of inquiry and answers over others. The diversity and distribution of such hopes affect what people philosophize about, and what the overall picture of philosophy looks like at any time.

Claude Monet, “Impression, Sunrise”

Professor Barnes continues on the connection between truth and social progress, and what she takes to be her responsibilities as a philosopher:

It could be that people aren’t motivated by the truth in any way, or that a noble lie would’ve been more politically effective. It’s also, of course, an open question that the truth could turn out to be politically inconvenient for people like me. I hope it’s not, but it might be. And I think any open and honest philosophical inquiry needs to countenance that—otherwise it feels too much like the conclusions are baked in to the arguments, and that’s not what we’re here for. 

People sometimes suggest something stronger—that, e.g., philosophy in these areas should be about advancing the view that is most likely to do the work of justice. And I’m somewhat uncomfortable with that idea. For one thing, I think it should be possible for something to be politically effective but false, and while I’m interested in rhetorical spin when I’m canvassing for political candidates, I don’t think that’s the project I’m undertaking when I’m doing philosophy. 

Of course not everyone will share your hopes for what is true, and so the discussion turns to questions of engagement with opposing and possibly offensive views:

The issue of offensive views or arguments in these areas is, of course, equally tricky. I think we need to take seriously the pain and harm that can be caused to individuals by philosophical arguments. What is a purely hypothetical thought experiment for one person is a discussion of someone else’s personal suffering, and I think that discrepancy matters. Nor do I think all arguments are worth taking seriously—sometimes the moral awfulness of an argument’s conclusion can make me think that it’s not worth engaging, no matter how clever or interesting the premises might be. The question then is when to engage, and for me that is just a hard question with no clear answers. 

At least for my own decisions, one thing I think about a lot is whether the argument is taken seriously in wider public discourse. (I know people worry that engaging with offensive arguments will ‘legitimize’ them, but in a lot of cases the arguments already have widespread currency, and whether I pay attention to them won’t change that.) I’m the elite among disabled people—I have great health insurance and a full-time job with great job security. And I also, in an important sense, make my living and my reputation from talking about the experiences and the oppression of people less fortunate than I am. So if I then turn around and say, in response to an argument that has wide public currency, that it’s too offensive for me to engage with, that doesn’t strike me as fair. What am I here for if not to philosophically engage with arguments that are hurting people who are subject to the type of oppression I study (the study of which gets me a nice paycheck and invitations to fancy universities and etc)?… 

Another thing that matters to me a great deal, when thinking through these issues, is what happens to philosophical discourse if we repeatedly say that arguments or positions ought not to be entertained because they are offensive or politically unacceptable. I should caveat by saying that I think that a lot of complaining about free speech and no-platforming is overblown, especially because in many cases we adopt a ‘teach the controversy’ mindset in which arguments are given prominence not because they are particularly interesting or challenging, but simply because their conclusions are controversial. And then the same people are asked, over and over, to engage with these arguments in a way that can feel more like public theater than genuine philosophical engagement. And I can understand getting sick of that. That being said, I am genuinely concerned about issues of political censorship in philosophy. 

And I’m concerned not because I think we have to make sure we protect the rights of obnoxious people to say obnoxious things (although I do think that.) I’m concerned because academia, like most any other social setting, has embedded hierarchies and power structures. If I was confident that the progressive elite of academia would always be on the side of right, then I wouldn’t be too worried about a norm of discourse that says you can shout down views that you find offensive or that you are politically opposed to. But I’m not confident of that. In fact I’m very confident of the opposite. And so I think it’s imperative, if we want to protect the ability of the truly vulnerable to be heard and to question consensus, that we have a norm of allowing views that go against the political grain. This will, of course, involve having a norm that allows for shitty and offensive views. But I think that’s a price worth paying. 

You can read the whole interview, in which Professor Barnes discusses her work in the philosophy of disability and metaphysics, her views on various philosophical questions, and the ontological fundamentality of dogs, here.

The post “An Optimistic Bet” appeared first on Daily Nous.

The Imprints’ Archive

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/10/2019 - 11:43pm in

Almost ten years ago, Chris wrote a blogpost announcing that the last issue of Imprints had been sent to the subscribers. Political philosophers beyond a certain age had greatly enjoyed the articles, bookreviews and interviews published by Imprints, but it was not possible to continue. But we should not forget – and this post is merely a reminder for us not to forget – that the entire Imprints’ Archive is online.

I was reminded of this yesterday, when I went to a lecture by Elizabeth Anderson in Amsterdam, who – to my surprise – during her talk endorsed limitarianism. Chris remarked on FB that this was a departure from her earlier views in which she merely supported sufficientarianism. The 2005 interview with Anderson in Imprints seems to support Chris’ observation, since she said (p. 15) the following:

‘Some people care about getting lost of this stuff [that doesn’t matter from a political point of view]. Once citizens’ satiable interest in securing social equality are satisfied, and he system secures for all a decent chance to get more, the state has no further interests of justice in micromanaging how the gains from cooperation are divided.”

In my 2 published papers on limitarianism (one open access here), I offered three reasons to endorse a limit to how much one can have: (1) at some point, additional money doesn’t add to the flourishing of a person, and can be spent on meeting unmet needs of others; (2) it can undermine political equality; (3) it is justified to take away the excess money of the superrich based on grounds of climate justice.

Reading the Imprints’ interview, Anderson would have agreed already in 2005 with (2), but (3) was not an issue she was considering, and she would reject (1). Yesterday in Amsterdam, I understood her as accepting (1) too, and that was also how I always understood her famous 1999 article ‘What is the Point of Equality?’ Not sure she has anything on this in print yet, and we may have to wait till her book on the two traditions on work ethos will be published, but it was interesting to hear her say this.