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2009-12-13
It's interesting to compare answers to a question between the whole target faculty population and those who work in the AOS associated with the question.  The biggest differences by far, unsurprisingly, concern theism and the philosophy of religion.  The next biggest differences are in decision theory (two boxing), philosophy of physical science (B-theory), philosophy of mathematics (Platonism).  Then epistemology (invariantism and to a lesser extent internalism), general philosophy of science (Humeanism), social and politlcal philosophy (egalitarianism), metaphysics (non-Humeanism).  And smaller differences in many other areas.

Of course those differences could be due to (i) specialists making better-grounded judgments, (ii) selection effects in entering the speciality, (iii) specialists' judgments corrupted by an insider literature, and various other sources.  I suspect that most philosophers will agree that each of these sources are at play in some cases, while they'll disagree about which are most at play in which cases!

Aesthetics: Specialists more likely to favor objective aesthetic value (44:15 vs 41:34).

Decision theory: Specialists more likely to favor two-boxing (61:26 vs 31:21).

Epistemology: Specialists more likely to favor a priori knowledge (78:14 vs 71:18), epistemic internalism (37:35 vs 26:43), skepticism (9:84:2 vs 5:82:4), invariantism (49:29:5 vs 31:40:3), rationalism (33:26 vs 28:35).

General Philosophy of Science: Specialists more likely to favor scientific anti-realism (16:60 vs 12:75), Humeanism about laws (41:49 vs 25:57).

Logic: Similar proportions on classical logic (57:24 vs 52:15).

Meta-ethics: Specialists more likely to favor cognitivism (75:14 vs 68:17).  Similar proportions on moral realism (56:26 vs 56:28) and moral internalism (44:36 vs 35:30).

Metaphilosophy: Specialists more likely to favor non-naturalism (38:38 vs 26:50).

Metaphysics: Specialists more likely to favor Platonism (51:32 vs 39:38), non-Humeanism (72:19 vs 57:25).  Fairly similar proportions on personal identity (33:18:17 vs 34:17:12),  teletransporter (39:38 vs 36:31), time (42:24 vs 26:15).

Normative ethics: Specialists more likely to favor deontology and less likely to favor virtue ethics (35:23:12 vs 26:24:18).  Similar proportions on trolley problem (80:10 vs 68:8).

Philosophy of action: Specialists more likely to be libertarians (19:53:12 vs 14:59:12).

Philosophy of language: Specialists more likely to favor invariantism (41:36:4 vs 31:40:3) and somewhat more likely to favor Millianism (42:33 vs 34:29). Similar on analytic-synthetic (65:29 vs 65:27), truth (52:25:3 vs 51:25:7).

Philosophy of mathematics: Specialists more likely to favor Platonism (60:20 vs 39:38).

Philosophy of mind: Specialists more likely to favor physicalism (61:22 vs 56:27), content externalism (57:18 vs 51:20), conceivability/impossibility and inconceivability of zombies (48:25:18 vs. 36:16:23) Similar on perception (43:17:17:4 vs 31:12:11:3).

Philosophy of physical science: Specialists more likely to favor B-theory (49:11 vs 26:15).

Philosophy of religion: Specialists more likely to favor theism (72:19 vs 15:73).

Social and political philosophy: Specialists more likely to favor egalitarianism (51:9:6 vs 35:14:10).
Latest replies: Permanent link: http://philpapers.org/post/2371 Reply

2009-12-09
The PhilPapers Survey and Metasurvey have now closed. Both had excellent response rates: 3226 individuals completed the Survey, and 727 completed the Metasurvey. Thanks again to everyone who participated.

The preliminary results can be found here:

http://philpapers.org/surveys/

This page contains basic data on answers to the Survey and the Metasurvey, broken down by population and by area of specialization. It also contains demographic data on answers to the background questions. There is also a discussion of the survey design and a highly preliminary discussion of results. In the not-too-distant future we will add more data concerning interquestion correlations, as well as correlations of answers with geography, age, and gender, and a factor analysis. There is a new discussion forum for surveys here.


2009-10-14
Here is an attempt to say what all and only religions share in common in virtue of which they are religions.
From (2001). A Theory of Religion Revised. Religious Studies 37 (2):177-189. This goes against
the prevailing view that there is only a 'family resemblance' tween religions.
Comments welcome.

I take it to be intuitive that religions are
concerned with a reality that surpasses the ordinary world that
sense perception reveals. This reality consists either of (a)
sentient supernatural beings (e.g. gods) or of (b) an insentient
metaphysical principle underlying the universe (e.g. The
Unconditioned, Sunyata, or The Tao). This principle has features
that mark it as belonging to a different order of reality from
the objects that make up the mundane world: it cannot be named or
cognized, it can be described only in contradictions, it doesn't
arise or pass away, it issues in everything else, it is utterly
changeless, or...

In short, religions relate practitioners to a reality that
transcends the mundane world revealed by sense perception; we
might call it a 'supermundane reality.' ...Even supposing we occasionally see
the gods walking among us, a significant part of their existence
must be unseen. (Indeed, the beings in question might better be
described as 'supermundane' than 'supernatural,' for the
practitioners may lack our concept of 'nature.') They reside
primarily on Mount Olympus or in a celestial realm. A 'god' who
rents the apartment next to mine, gets a job driving a bus, joins
the Libertarian Party, marries a coworker, and becomes completely
immersed in the mundane realm forever, is a theological oxymoron.
Similarly the insentient metaphysical principle must at least
partly transcend nature, even if we sometimes see its operations
in nature. It comprises a level of reality deeper than what sense
perception (even assisted by scientific instruments) reveals, and
its nature is best discovered by other means, e.g. meditation.

In addition,
the elements that comprise the reality to which a religion
relates us must be sufficiently grand (taken either individually
or collectively) that they can figure centrally in satisfying the
sort of substantial human needs that people generally want
religions to meet (e.g. long life, immortality, the end of
suffering). Gremlins do not a religion make.

I said above
that religions are concerned with a supermundane reality that
consists either of sentient supernatural beings or of a
metaphysical principle that underlies the universe. This reality
must be sufficiently grand that it can figure centrally in the
satisfaction of substantial human needs. There is, of course, a
certain vagueness in the idea of 'substantial' human needs.
Consequently there may not always be a fact of the matter about
whether a possible set of practices is a religion (the User's
Manual for the new theory advises us to err on the side of
inclusion, however). But a vague idea needn't be a 'family
resemblance' concept; consider 'baldness.' Nor is vagueness
theoretically problematic so long as we know what to say in clear
cases--doubly so if borderline cases are merely possible.
Let's call a supermundane reality that has all these
features a 'SR.'

This suggests the following account:

A religion is a system of practices rationalized by beliefs
according to which the practices place the practitioner in a
relation-of-value to a SR.

Counter-examples?
Latest replies: Permanent link: http://philpapers.org/post/1802 Reply

2009-10-06
I've been trying to work on the question about how we should individuate, or count, perceptual experiences at a time, and whether or not there is any substantive issue here.
   I am currently looking at my computer, and my desk, and a cup. Is this one visual experience, or three, and what decides this? Individuating experiences across sensory modalities seems an easier task, and we may just say that are as many experiences as there are senses, or something to that effect, but within a modality, things seem much harder to judge.
   The following may be various potential methods for individuating experiences at a time, that may be put to use: experiences might be individuated according to content&character, by the instantiation of phenomenal properties, by appeal to 'phenomenal articulation' to use a phrase of Tim Bayne's (this could also be spelled out by appeal to counterfactuals, i.e., 'if I could have had the same experience of the computer without the bottle, then they are separate experiences), by appeal to neural events, or by appeal to some facts about visual experiences, such as the fact that we cannot experience colour without shape, and so these properties must be within the same experience (it seems possible to do this with the other senses: we cannot perceive pitch without volume and timbre in audition, for example).
   My question is whether any of these methods of individuating experiences (at a time) reflect any substantive issue, or is there simply no carving nature at the joints here, and so we can safely individuate experiences only according to theoretical need.

The more general thinking behind this worry is that there seem to be consequences for the issue of the unity of consciousness, specifically the question of how we should think of phenomenal unity, or 'experienced togetherness'. Tye claims that the 'received view' of phenomenal unity, on which the issue is one of how individual experiences are unified, what relation holds between them,  and what the relation of the unified experiences to the maximal unifying experience is, is mistaken. Tye puts forward several criticisms of this received view, two of which come in the form of supposed infinite regresses that start once we posit a third experience that is responsible for unifying two experiences. Tye, on the other hand, claims that at a time a subject has simply one experience, which can be described in more or less fine-grained ways, and that the issue of how different experiences are phenomenally unified dissolves.
   if there is no substantive difference between methods of individuating experiences, my worry is that Tye's criticisms of the received view cannot be met with 'yes, but there has to be some relation that holds between experiences, as a subject does not have (in most cases) simply one experience at a time'.

Any thoughts on this greatly appreciated.  
Latest replies: Permanent link: http://philpapers.org/post/1732 Reply

2009-09-02
Received views are an important part of our symbolic order. Once it becomes apparent that they cannot possibly be true, it is sometimes a valuable philosophical task to preserve them, since no rational and educated person could actually believe them. As an example of a critically endangered received view, consider Jerry Coyne's excellent book, Why Evolution Is True:
[T]he process of evolution -- natural selection, the mechanism that drove the first naked, replicating molecule into the diversity of millions of fossil and living forms -- is a mechanism of staggering simplicity and beauty.
The received view is that natural selection is a mechanism or process that shapes all living things, and that the study of natural selection explains a lot about the history of life on Earth. Natural selection makes it possible to treat the billion years of organic evolution as a coherent narrative, making biology an endless reserve of wonder, understanding, and enjoyment.

Matthen and Ariew (20022009), however, have convincingly argued against the view of natural selection as a cause of evolution. Their argument applies as well to other characterizations of natural selection: as a process, as a mechanism, as a force. They maintain that natural selection "is a mathematical aggregate of individual events" (2002), "an abstract phenomenon that obtains in all population histories" (forthcoming). They assert that variation (in a given population, in a given environment) causes evolutionary change, but deny that natural selection causes evolutionary change. Obviously, it is not variation alone that brings about evolutionary change, but once natural selection is understood as the outcome of very many possible interactions amoung traits, individuals, and environments, to be assessed on a case by case basis, the notion of "selection-as-process" becomes untenable and all we are left with is "selection-as-outcome". This sounds like a serious blow to the received view of natural selection. One may wonder whether an alternative account can save it. 


As one of the foremost population geneticists, Coyne cannot ignore the discrepancies between the "vernacular" view of natural selection (as process, mechanism, or cause) and what his science tells him. Here is how he introduces the crucial idea:

The idea of natural selection is not hard to grasp. If individuals within a species differ genetically from one another, and some of those differences affect an individual's ability to survive and reproduce in its environment, then in the next generation the "good" genes that lead to higher survival and reproduction will have relatively more copies than the "not so good" genes. Over time, the population will gradually become more and more suited to its environment as helpful mutations arise and spread through the population, while deleterious ones are weeded out. Ultimately, this process produces organisms that are well adapted to their habitats and way of life.
Thus, Coyne avoids an explicit definition of natural selection: what he describes is an abstract process leading to adaptation. To me, it seems that we all know (well, we may still be a minority since many philosophers appear to think differently) that natural selection cannot be construed as one of the customarily relevant things -- causes, forces, mechanisms, processes -- that can be inserted at the proper place, in a larger account of how things work, in order to do explanatory work.


Since I take Matthen and Ariew's views to be correct, I find it hopeless to insist on natural selection as 'something' behaving like an agent, a designer, a partial optimizer, or even a sieve (as in the rather frequent account of variation followed by selection resulting in evolutionary change). Should this (correct) view become dominant, however, we should face the dire consequences: educated people would have no reason to believe that there is a simple, understandable explanation for the whole of evolution (does anybody know of one such explanation, by the way?), and we should stop praising such excellent books as Coyne's. It could be a philosophically interesting issue (and I'm inviting comments on this as well) to see whether we could maintain the association between natural selection and simplicity, beauty, amazement, or ideas-that-change-everything. Clearly, "selection as outcome" and "variation as cause of evolutionary change" cannot hold to the task.


Whatever the broader philosophical and "political" implications, my interest here is in showing how the received view of natural selection might be preserved. I don't know whether Matthen and Ariew would agree on my interpretation of their work, but I would like to call attention to the fact that although natural selection is indeed a statistical aggregate (a pattern of distribution?) the term alludes to (suggests?, points to?) a causal story about how the aggregate came about (without actually requiring the provision of a causal story). This is my way of seeing the significance of the authors' "hierarchical realization model" of how evolutionary influences combine. 


Since I am not sure I understand the model, I will not elaborate on it. I'll just try to redress the received view of natural selection in a way that can highlight a possible role for the model:

  1. (some) naturally occurring variations improve the organism's ability to survive and reproduce in a given environment; 
  2. these functional improvements (often qualitative) are someway translated into a quantitative, statistically significant difference in reproductive rates;
  3. there is an abstract, mathematical relation between higher reproductive rates and the spread of favorable variations (the outcome).

Here, an analysis of function/causal roles is mainly confined to 1, while the mathematical aggregate we call natural selection is the direct outcome of 3. It is in 2 that the hard work is done, the "work" of converting the interactions among functional variations, other changes in the organism (e.g., changes in fertility or in mating behavior), and environmental changes as well, into quantitative differences in reproductive rates. Whether the hierarchical realization model can accomplish all this work, I don't know, but it seems promising. 
In place of a conclusion, a tendentious question: in view of the symbolic importance of natural selection, why don't they just call it "the hierarchical realization model of natural selection"?




Latest replies: Permanent link: http://philpapers.org/post/1638 Reply

2009-08-18
It is widely believed, both by proponents of the theory-theory and proponents of the simulation theory, that people can successfully predict one another's behavior on the basis of attributions of belief and desire.  The idea is that person A can observe person B's behavior, on that basis figure out that B has certain beliefs and desires, and on the basis of the attribution of those beliefs and desires, successfully predict what B will do.

My own opinion is that there is no reason to believe this.  Yes, we can often successfully predict what other people will do.  Sometimes we do it by straight induction.  (People look both ways before crossing a street.)  Sometimes we can predict what a person who has a certain skill will do as a consequence of having that skill.  (She's a good chess player; so she will take my rook.)  One of those skills is language.  We can often predict what people will do on the basis of what they have told us.  (He will meet me at my office at 10 tomorrow, because that's the time we agreed on.)

What I don't see is any evidence that we can reliably predict what people will do in a way in which attributions of belief and desire play an ineliminable role.  There are no experimental studies that even attempt to show that we can.  (What one kind finds lots of is studies where a researcher just assumes that we utilize folk psychology.)  Nor even have I ever heard of a single real-life example in which it was at least quite plausible that one person successfully predicted the behavior of another (and didn't  just make a lucky guess) and in which it was not evident that the same prediction could have been made in other ways (straight induction or inference from a skill possession).  

So here's my question:  Can any of you tell me an anecdote from REAL LIFE in which it was clear that one person successfully predicted another's behavior in a way that made an ineliminable use of attributions of beliefs and desires?  Fictional episodes, however realistic they may seem to you, do not fill the bill.

Please note that it is not enough to tell a story in which A predicts B's behavior and then rationalizes B's behavior in terms of beliefs and desires.  That will not show that the prediction actually depended on the attributions of belief and desire that provide the rationalization.

Please do not assume that I am an eliminativist or a behaviorist.  I am not.  I think that attributions of belief and desire play an important role in our lives, but facilitating prediction of people's behavior is not one of them.

Thank you in advance!
Latest replies: Permanent link: http://philpapers.org/post/1559 Reply

2009-07-26
Hi,

I'm currently writing a dissertation on the connection between behaviour and the mental concepts for my MA and was wondering whether anyone could point me in the direction of some good articles or authors - particularly early or mid 20th Century - who have criticised the classical Logical Positivist formulation of behaviourism on the grounds that the reduction of behaviour to descriptions at the level of brute, bodily motions breaks down the distinction between action and mere movement which is crucial in forging any kind of link between the mental concepts and behaviour?

There is much made of circularity and explanatory vacuity in the literature but these criticisms are levelled at the type of logical behaviourism attributed to Ryle and Wittgenstein rather than the verificationist, classical formulation of the theory and I'm particularly keen to find some more material which specifically criticises Hempel, Carnap et al.

Any pointers you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

Regards,

Jay.


  
Latest replies: Permanent link: http://philpapers.org/post/1452 Reply

2009-06-18

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Latest replies: Permanent link: http://philpapers.org/post/1302 Reply

2009-06-08

I've got a strictly sociological question about an epistemological doctrine: rationalist infallibilism. Rationalist infallibilism, defined somewhat tendentiously,holds that a relatively wide range of (i) analytic and (ii) synthetic a priori propositions can be infallibly justified or absolutely warranted. Here I'll define absolute warrant as a proposition that is warranted to such a degree that entails its truth and precludes its falsefood.

Are there any current  proponents of rationalist infallibilism who have made sustained attempts to defend this position in the literature? I can think of a few philosophers who have defended  either thesis (i) (e.g., Putnam) or (ii) (e.g., Burge, Lewis, Parent, Bealer), but none who defend both these theses. Are there any prominent or semi-prominent philosophers who still defend both these theses and can thereby be described as rationalist infallibilists (as I describe the position)? Or is rationalist infallibilism a completely dead position? 

Latest replies: Permanent link: http://philpapers.org/post/1223 Reply

2009-05-20

I would like to ask each of you two questions.

We all have some goals that I will call professional goals.  For instance, you want to publish such-and-such a paper of yours or institute such-and-such a change in your department or university.  Those are fairly specific goals.  A less specific one might be the goal of making a significant contribution to the profession by advancing the discussion of a certain topic.

We also have various goals having to do with teaching.  For instance, you might want to mentor more PhD students or significantly improve your ability to help your students write better.

I hope that those two characterizations are not too vague.  My first question is: what pure research goals do you have that do not fall into either of the above two categories (at least not primarily; naturally, there will be plenty of overlap)?

 

An outrageous example: you want to solve the mind-body problem, the determinism-free will problem, and liar paradox (all this afternoon, of course).  A less ambitious but vague example: you want to understand the notion of agency better.

 

My second question: do you think you will accomplish those pure research goals?

 

Now, you might not have any pure research goals at all.  Perhaps you just really love to do research in philosophy and you have no goal other than the pursuit of that kind of pleasure (if that can be called a goal here).

Thanks
Latest replies: Permanent link: http://philpapers.org/post/1006 Reply