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Profile: Charles R Pigden (University of Otago)
  1. Charles Pigden, What Hume Was Really Up to with No-Ought-From-Is.
  2. Charles Pigden, By.
    Dr Ward of Knox College obviously considers himself a sophisticated fellow. You can tell by the humorous yet statesmanlike tone of his article 'Psst … wanna hear a conspiracy theory?' (ODT 29/6/06). 'It is important', he thinks 'in dialoguing with conspiracy thinking, not just to refute it … but to ask why is it that people are believing this theory?' This apparently 'would create a much healthier dialogue than the shouting past each other that often seems to take place.' In (...)
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  3. Charles Pigden, ANNEX 3: Russell's Humean Wobble: Human Society in Ethics and Politics.
    Russell’s Human Society is a fun book to read, but meta-ethically it is a bit of a mess. There is much wit and some wisdom, though both the wit and the wisdom are more conspicuous when he is discussing human nature and human society than when he is discussing the finer points of ethical theory. (I particularly like his frequent complaints that human behavior seldom rises to the level of enlightened self-interest. If only we could manage to be intelligently selfish, (...)
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  4. Charles Pigden, Books 543.
    to the novice or non-specialist. Nevertheless, there is much that is useful in this study, but those who read it will need to have some discernment, and those who teach from it will need to offer their students some direction.
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  5. Charles Pigden, Civil Unions and the Institution of Marriage.
    With the exception of the occasional Damn-you-to-Hell types such as Mr Owen Burke of Timaru (ODT, 7/7/04), most opponents of the Civil Unions Bill like to pretend that they are not doing it out of hostility to homosexuals (who they sometimes, rather patronizingly, claim to love as people) but out of zeal for the institution of marriage. If civil unions are allowed, marriage will be damaged, and that is why they are against the Bill. The problem with this rationale is (...)
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  6. Charles Pigden, Gedda Life!
    Politics is a passionate business, and political loyalty is a bit like love. It can wax, it can wane, it can die and it can be killed. Right now my loyalty to the Alliance is at its last gasp. I am not yet talking to my lawyers, but I am certainly considering a trial separation. To some extent this is 'just one of those things'. I should have been aware that my political love affair was too hot not to cool (...)
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  7. Charles Pigden, Karens Sketch.
    (Supplement to Monty Python’s Australian Philosophers ‘Bruce’ Sketch, Occasioned by the large number of Australian philosophers called ‘Karen’) Dramatis Personae: KAREN 1 (Head of Department: rugged and decisive. Farm animals instinctively obey.) KAREN 2 (Hume Studies: tough lady cop from ‘Water Rats’.) KAREN 3 (Wittgenstein and Philosophy of Science: more aggressive – tough lady crime lord from ‘Water Rats’.) KAREN 4 (Practical Reasoning: Put upon - still fairly rugged but it is not an accident that she is the one who (...)
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  8. Charles Pigden, 200 Level Papers.
    The following is a list of the 200 level, second year papers available in the Philosophy Department in 2008. Click here for more information on papers offered and course requirements.
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  9. Charles Pigden, Right Back at the Backgrounder.
    Dear Comrades, On Saturday the 18th of September, I received what purports to be a ‘backgrounder’ on Alliance revenue policy. I say ‘purports’ because as a backgrounder it leaves a lot to be desired. a) Anyone not already familiar with the issues would have considerable difficulty working out what the dispute is all about. b) You would expect a REAL backgrounder on what is a controversial matter within the federal Party to present BOTH sides of the question. This ‘backgrounder’ is (...)
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  10. Charles Pigden, Research Projects.
    In 2003 the Otago Philosophy Department scored 6.6. This made it the highest scoring department in any discipline in any university in New Zealand. In 2007 we increased our score to 7.5, thus retaining our status as New Zealand's number one research department.
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  11. Charles Pigden, Schurz, Gerhard, the is-Ought Problem: An Investigation in Philosophical Logic, Dordrecht, Kluwer, 1997, X + 332, £92.25. [REVIEW]
    There have been books written since 1997 both on Hume’s ethics and on metaethics generally which make no mention of Gerhard Schurz’s The Is-Ought Problem. I don’t say that they are ipso facto bad books since they may have merits which make up for this glaring defect. But Schurz’s magnificent The Is-Ought Problem is a major contribution to both logic and metaethics and ethicists who disregard it do so at their intellectual peril.
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  12. Charles Pigden, Still Room for Criticism Within Coalition.
    DEAR Mr Anderton, your letter to members asks us to tick one of two boxes: to "stay on course as common sense, constructive coalition partners" or to "head off on an alternative course of oppositional politics". I'm afraid I cannot tick either box in such a slanted "have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife-yet?" questionnaire.
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  13. Charles Pigden, Wilt Thou Conceal This Dark Conspiracy? By.
    Dr Ward of Knox College obviously considers himself a sophisticated fellow. You can tell by the humorous yet statesmanlike tone of his article 'Psst … wanna hear a conspiracy theory?' (ODT 29/6/06). 'It is important', he thinks 'in dialoguing with conspiracy thinking, not just to refute it … but to ask why is it that people are believing this theory?' This apparently 'would create a much healthier dialogue than the shouting past each other that often seems to take place.' In (...)
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  14. Charles Pigden (forthcoming). Conspiracy Theories and the Conventional Wisdom Revisited. In Olli Loukola (ed.), Secrets and Conspiracies. Rodopi.
    Conspiracy theories should be neither believed nor investigated - that is the conventional wisdom. I argue that it is sometimes permissible both to investigate and to believe. Hence this is a dispute in the ethics of belief. I defend epistemic ‘oughts’ that apply in the first instance to belief-forming strategies that are partly under our control. I argue that the policy of systematically doubting or disbelieving conspiracy theories would be both a political disaster and the epistemic equivalent of self-mutilation, since (...)
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  15. Charles Pigden (forthcoming). Hume On Is and Ought: Logic, Promises and the Duke of Wellington. In Paul Russell (ed.), Oxford Handbook on David Hume. Oxford University Press.
    Hume seems to contend that you can’t get an ought from an is. Searle professed to prove otherwise, deriving a conclusion about obligations from a premise about promises. Since (as Schurz and I have shown) you can’t derive a substantive ought from an is by logic alone, Searle is best construed as claiming that there are analytic bridge principles linking premises about promises to conclusions about obligations. But we can no more derive a moral obligation to pay up from the (...)
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  16. Charles Pigden (2014). Normative Bedrock: Response-Dependence, Rationality, and Reasons, by Joshua Gert. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (1):207-208.
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  17. Charles Pigden (2013). Annette Baier (1929–2012). Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (1):209 - 210.
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  18. Charles Pigden (2013). Analytic Philosophy (Alternative Title 'Analytic Atheism?'). In Stephen Bullivant & Michael Ruse (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Atheism. Oxford University Press. 307-319.
    Most analytic philosophers are atheists, but is there a deep connection between analytic philosophy and atheism? The paper argues a) that the founding fathers of analytic philosophy were mostly teenage atheists before they became philosophers; b) that analytic philosophy was invented partly because it was realized that the God-substitute provided by the previously fashionable philosophy - Absolute Idealism – could not cut the spiritual mustard; c) that analytic philosophy developed an unhealthy obsession with meaninglessness which led to a new kind (...)
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  19. Charles Pigden (2013). Book Note: Gert, Joshua, Normative Bedrock: Response-Dependence Rationality and Reasons, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013, X + 218 Pp, Hardback. [REVIEW] Australasian Journal of Philosophy (1):1-1.
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  20. Charles Pigden (2013). Is–Ought Gap. In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Wiley-Blackwell.
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  21. Charles Pigden (2013). Subversive Explanations. In Gregory Dawes & James Maclaurin (eds.), A New Science of Religion,. Routledge. 147-161..
    Can an explanation of a set of beliefs cast doubt on the things believed? In particular, can an evolutionary explanation of religious beliefs call the contents of those beliefs into question? Yes - under certain circumstances. I distinguish between natural histories of beliefs and genealogies. A natural history of a set of beliefs is an explanation that puts them down to naturalistic causes. (I try to give an account of natural explanations which favors a certain kind of ‘methodological atheism’ without (...)
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  22. Charles Pigden, Stephen Law, Julian Baggini & John Bigelow (2013). Obituaries. The Philosophers' Magazine 60 (60):9-12.
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  23. Charles R. Pigden (2012). A 'Sensible Knave'? Hume, Jane Austen and Mr Elliot. Intellectual History Review 22 (3):465-480.
    This paper deals with what I take to be one woman’s literary response to a philosophical problem. The woman is Jane Austen, the problem is the rationality of Hume’s ‘sensible knave’, and Austen’s response is to deepen the problem. Despite his enthusiasm for virtue, Hume reluctantly concedes in the EPM that injustice can be a rational strategy for ‘sensible knaves’, intelligent but selfish agents who feel no aversion towards thoughts of villainy or baseness. Austen agrees, but adds that ABSENT CONSIDERATIONS (...)
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  24. Charles R. Pigden (2012). Identifying Goodness. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (1):93 - 109.
    The paper reconstructs Moore's Open Question Argument (OQA) and discusses its rise and fall. There are three basic objections to the OQA: Geach's point, that Moore presupposes that ?good? is a predicative adjective (whereas it is in fact attributive); Lewy's point, that it leads straight to the Paradox of Analysis; and Durrant's point that even if 'good' is not synonymous with any naturalistic predicate, goodness might be synthetically identical with a naturalistic property. As against Geach, I argue that 'good' has (...)
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  25. Charles Pigden & Rebecca E. B. Entwisle (2012). Spread Worlds, Plenitude and Modal Realism: A Problem for David Lewis. In James Maclaurin (ed.), Rationis Defensor.
    In his metaphysical summa of 1986, The Plurality of Worlds, David Lewis famously defends a doctrine he calls ‘modal realism’, the idea that to account for the fact that some things are possible and some things are necessary we must postulate an infinity possible worlds, concrete entities like our own universe, but cut off from us in space and time. Possible worlds are required to account for the facts of modality without assuming that modality is primitive – that there are (...)
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  26. Charles Pigden (2011). Getting the Wrong Anderson? A Short and Opinionated History of New Zealand Philosophy. In Graham Oppy & Nick Trakakis (eds.), The Antipodean Philosopher: Public Lectures on Philosophy in Australia and New Zealand. Lexington Books. 169-195.
    Is the history of philosophy primarily a contribution to PHILOSOPHY or primarily a contribution to HISTORY? This paper is primarily contribution to history (specifically the history of New Zealand) but although the history of philosophy has been big in New Zealand, most NZ philosophers with a historical bent are primarily interested in the history of philosophy as a contribution to philosophy. My essay focuses on two questions: 1) How did New Zealand philosophy get to be so good? And why, given (...)
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  27. Charles Pigden (2011). Letter From Otago. The Philosophers' Magazine 53 (53):52-54.
    Short article on the history of the Otago Department.
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  28. Charles Pigden (2010). Comments on 'Hume's Master Argument'. In , Hume on Is and Ought. Palgrave Macmillan. 128-142.
    This is a commentary on Adrian Heathcote’s interesting paper ‘Hume’s Master Argument’. Heathcote contends that No-Ought-From-Is is primarily a logical thesis, a ban on Is/Ought inferences which Hume derives from the logic of Ockham. NOFI is thus a variation on what Heathcote calls ‘Hume’s Master Argument’, which he also deploys to prove that conclusions about the future (and therefore a-temporal generalizations) cannot be derived by reason from premises about the past, and that conclusions about external objects or other minds cannot (...)
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  29. Charles Pigden (ed.) (2010). Hume on Is and Ought. Palgrave Macmillan.
    It ‘seems altogether inconceivable', says Hume, that this ‘new relation' ought ‘can be a deduction' from others ‘which are entirely different from it' The idea that you can't derive an Ought from an Is, moral conclusions from non-moral premises, has proved enormously influential. But what did Hume mean by this famous dictum? Was he correct? How does it fit in with the rest of his philosophy? And what does this suggest about the nature of moral judgements? This collection, the first (...)
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  30. Charles Pigden (2010). Letter From a Gentleman in Dunedin to a Lady in the Countryside. In Hume on Is and Ought.
    I argue 1) That in his celebrated Is/Ought passage, Hume employs ‘deduction’ in the strict sense, according to which if a conclusion B is justly or evidently deduced from a set of premises A, A cannot be true and B false, or B false and the premises A true. 2) That Hume was following the common custom of his times which sometimes employed ‘deduction’ in a strict sense to denote inferences in which, in the words of Dr Watts’ Logick, ‘the (...)
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  31. Charles Pigden (2010). On the Triviality of Hume's Law: A Reply to Gerhard Schurz. In , Hume on Is and Ought. Palgrave Macmillan. 217-238.
    I argue that No-Ought-From-Is (in the sense that I believe it) is a relatively trivial affair. Of course, when people try to derive substantive or non-vacuous moral conclusions from non-moral premises, they are making a mistake. But No-Non-Vacuous-Ought-From-Is is meta-ethically inert. It tells us nothing about the nature of the moral concepts. It neither refutes naturalism nor supports non-cognitivism. And this is not very surprising since it is merely an instance of an updated version of the conservativeness of logic (in (...)
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  32. Charles Pigden (2010). Substance, Content, Taxonomy and Consequence: A Comment on Stephen Maitzen. In , Hume on Is and Ought. Palgrave Macmillan. 313-319.
    This is a response to Stephen Maitzen’s paper. ‘Moral Conclusions from Nonmoral Premises’. Maitzen thinks that No-Ought-From-Is is false. He does not dispute the formal proofs of Schurz and myself, but he thinks they are beside the point. For what the proponents of No-Ought-From-Is need to show is not that you cannot get SUBSTANTIVELY moral conclusions from FORMALLY non-moral premises but that you cannot get SUBSTANTIVELY moral conclusions from SUBSTANTIVELY non-moral premises. And he believes that he can derive substantively moral (...)
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  33. Charles Pigden (2010). Snare's Puzzle/Hume's Purpose: Non-Cognitivism and What Hume Was Really Up to with No-Ought-From-Is. In Pigden (ed.), Hume on Is and Ought. Palgrave Macmillan.
    Frank Snare had a puzzle. Noncognitivism implies No-Ought-From-Is but No- Ought-From-Is does not imply non-cognitivism. How then can we derive non-cognitivism from No-Ought-From-Is? Via an abductive argument. If we combine non-cognitivism with the conservativeness of logic (the idea that in a valid argument the conclusion is contained in the premises), this implies No-Ought-From-Is. Hence if No-Ought-From-Is is true, we can arrive at non-cognitivism via an inference to the best explanation. With prescriptivism we can make this argument more precise. I develop (...)
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  34. Charles R. Pigden (2010). Coercive Theories of Meaning or Why Language Shouldn't Matter (So Much) to Philosophy. Logique Et Analyse 53 (210):151.
    This paper is a critique of coercive theories of meaning, that is, theories (or criteria) of meaning designed to do down ones opponents by representing their views as meaningless or unintelligible. Many philosophers from Hobbes through Berkeley and Hume to the pragmatists, the logical positivists and (above all) Wittgenstein have devised such theories and criteria in order to discredit their opponents. I argue 1) that such theories and criteria are morally obnoxious, a) because they smack of the totalitarian linguistic tactics (...)
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  35. Charles R. Pigden (ed.) (2010). Hume on Motivation and Virtue. Palgrave Macmillan.
  36. Charles Pigden (2009). A Niggle at Nagel: Causally Active Desires and the Explanation of Action. In Constantine Sandis (ed.), New Essays on the Explanation of Action. Palgrave Macmillan. 220--40.
    This paper criticizes an influential argument from Thomas Nagel’s THE POSSIBILTIY OF ALTRUISM, an argument that plays a foundational role in the philosophies of (at least) Philippa Foot, John McDowell and Jonathan Dancy. Nagel purports to prove that a person can be can be motivated to perform X by the belief that X is likely to bring about Y, without a causally active or biffy desire for Y. If Cullity and Gaut are to be believed (ETHICS AND PRACTICAL REASONING) this (...)
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  37. Charles Pigden (2009). Introduction to Hume on Motivation and Virtue. In Hume on Motivation and Virtue. 1-29.
    This includes a methodological meditation (in blank verse) on the history of philosophy as a contribution to philosophy (rather than as a contribution to history) plus a conspectus of the issues surrounding Hume, the Motivation Argument and the Slavery of Reason Thesis. However I am posting it here mainly because it contains a novel restatement of the Argument from Queerness. Big Thesis: the Slavery of Reason Thesis (via the Motivation Argument) provides no support for non-cognitivism or emotivism, but there is (...)
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  38. Charles R. Pigden (ed.) (2009). Hume on Motivation and Virtue: New Essays. Palgrave Macmillan.
    Contemporary ethical thought owes a great deal to David Hume whose work has inspired theories as diverse as non-cognitivism, error theory, quasi-realism, and instrumentalism about practical reason. This timely volume brings together an international range of distinguished scholars to discuss and dispute issues revolving around three closely related Humean themes which have recently come under close scrutiny. First is Hume's infamous claim that 'Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions'. Second, the Motivation (or Influence) Argument (...)
     
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  39. Charles R. Pigden (2009). If Not Non-Cognitivism, Then What? In , Hume on Motivation and Virtue. Palgrave Macmillan.
    Taking my cue from Michael Smith, I try to extract a decent argument for non-cognitivism from the text of the Treatise. I argue that the premises are false and that the whole thing rests on a petitio principi. I then re-jig the argument so as to support that conclusion that Hume actually believed (namely that an action is virtuous if it would excite the approbation of a suitably qualified spectator). This argument too rests on false premises and a begged question. (...)
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  40. Charles Pigden (2007). Desiring to Desire: Russell, Lewis and G.E.Moore. In Susana Nuccetelli & Gary Seay (eds.), Themes from G.E.Moore. Oxford University Press. 244-260.
    I have two aims in this paper. In §§2-4 I contend that Moore has two arguments (not one) for the view that that ‘good’ denotes a non-natural property not to be identified with the naturalistic properties of science and common sense (or, for that matter, the more exotic properties posited by metaphysicians and theologians). The first argument, the Barren Tautology Argument (or the BTA), is derived, via Sidgwick, from a long tradition of anti-naturalist polemic. But the second argument, the Open (...)
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  41. Charles Pigden, Russell's Moral Philosophy. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    A 27000 word survey of Russell’s ethics for the SEP. I argue that Russell was a meta-ethicist of some significance. In the course of his long philosophical career, he canvassed most of the meta-ethical options that have dominated debate in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries — naturalism, non-naturalism, emotivism and the error-theory (anticipating Stevenson and Ayer on the one hand and Mackie on the other), and even, to some extent, subjectivism and relativism. And though none of his theories quite worked (...)
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  42. Charles R. Pigden (2007). Conspiracy Theories and the Conventional Wisdom. Episteme 4 (2):219-232.
    Abstract Conspiracy theories should be neither believed nor investigated - that is the conventional wisdom. I argue that it is sometimes permissible both to investigate and to believe. Hence this is a dispute in the ethics of belief. I defend epistemic “oughts” that apply in the first instance to belief-forming strategies that are partly under our control. But the beliefforming strategy of not believing conspiracy theories would be a political disaster and the epistemic equivalent of selfmutilation. I discuss several variations (...)
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  43. Charles R. Pigden (2007). Hume, Motivation and “the Moral Problem”. Rivista di Storia Della Filosofia 62 (3):199-221.
    Hume is widely regarded as the grandfather of emotivism and indeed of non-cognitivism in general. For the chief argument for emotivism - the Argument from Motivation - is derived from him. In my opinion Hume was not an emotivist or proto-emotivist but a moral realist in the modern ‘response-dependent’ style. But my interest in this paper is not the historical Hume but the Hume of legend since the legendary Hume is one of the most influential philosophers of the present age. (...)
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  44. Charles R. Pigden (2007). Nihilism, Nietzsche and the Doppelganger Problem. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (5):441 - 456.
    Nihilism, Nietzsche and the Doppelganger Problem Was Nietzsche a nihilist? Yes, because, like J. L. Mackie, he was an error-theorist about morality, including the elitist morality to which he himself subscribed. But he was variously a diagnostician, an opponent and a survivor of certain other kinds of nihilism. Schacht argues that Nietzsche cannot have been an error theorist, since meta-ethical nihilism is inconsistent with the moral commitment that Nietzsche displayed. Schacht’s exegetical argument parallels the substantive argument (advocated in recent years (...)
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  45. Colin Cheyne & Charles Pigden (2006). Negative Truths From Positive Facts. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 84 (2):249 – 265.
    According to the truthmaker theory that we favour, all contingent truths are made true by existing facts or states of affairs. But if that is so, then it appears that we must accept the existence of the negative facts that are required to make negative truths (such as 'There is no hippopotamus in the room.') true. We deny the existence of negative facts, show how negative truths are made true by positive facts, point out where the (reluctant) advocates of negative (...)
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  46. Charles Pigden (2006). Complots of Mischief. In David Coady (ed.), Conspiracy Theories: The Philosophical Debate. Ashgate. 139-166.
    In Part 1, I contend (using Coriolanus as my mouthpiece) that Keeley and Clarke have failed to show that there is anything intellectually suspect about conspiracy theories per se. Conspiracy theorists need not commit the ‘fundamental attribution error’ there is no reason to suppose that all or most conspiracy theories constitute the cores of degenerating research programs, nor does situationism - a dubious doctrine in itself - lend any support to a systematic skepticism about conspiracy theories. In Part 2. I (...)
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  47. Charles Pigden (2004). Review of G.E.Moore’s Ethical Theory by Brian Hutchinson. [REVIEW] International Philosophical Quarterly:543-547.
    The history of philosophy can be seen either as a contribution to history or a contribution to philosophy or perhaps as a bit of both. Hutchinson fail on both counts. The book is bad: bad in itself (since it quite definitely ought not to be) and bad as a companion to Principia (since it sets students a bad example of slapdash, lazy and pretentious philosophizing and would tend to put them off reading Moore). As a conscientious reviewer I ploughed through (...)
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  48. Charles Pigden (2003). Bertrand Russell: Moral Philosopher or UnPhilosophical Moralist? In Nicholas Griffin (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Bertrand Russell. Cambridge University Press. 475-506.
    Until very recently the received wisdom on Russell’s moral philosophy was that it is uninspired and derivative, from Moore in its first phase and from Hume and the emotivists in its second. In my view this is a consensus of error. In the latter part of this essay I contend: 1) that Russell’s ‘work in moral philosophy’ had at least three, and (depending how you look at it) up to six ‘main phases’; 2) that in some of those phases, it (...)
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  49. Charles Pigden (2003). The Cambridge Companion to Bertrand Russell.
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  50. Charles Pigden (1998). Review of One for All by Russell Hardin. [REVIEW] Mind 107:482-485.
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