:: The End Times

Does God Play Dice? published 17/09/2017

The puzzle of how the electron moves in an atom had been plaguing me. Day after day, I gradually doubted the reality of continuous motion. But I still felt in my bones that the electron is a particle and it must move in space in some way. Finally, in an early morning of October 1993, I experienced a sudden enlightenment or revelation. At that moment, I felt that my body permeated the whole universe and I was united with it. I “disappeared”. A clear picture then appeared: a particle is jumping in a random and discontinuous way. It is not inert but active; it moves purely by its own “free will”.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Shan Gao.

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Why Compromise? Why Peace? published 09/09/2017

I argue that we are never morally required to establish fair compromises, at least if fair compromises are understood as compromises in which the parties make an equal amount of concessions relative to what they can gain and lose. If you disagree with a friend about where to go on vacation, then you should certainly try to accommodate your friend’s interests, but this does not mean that you should be concerned with how much both of you can gain and lose from the interaction (and hence with the power relations between you two). Fair compromises might sometimes serve a pragmatic function as “focal points”, but there is nothing moral about them.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Fabian Wendt.

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The Infidel and the Professor published 02/09/2017

Friendship was absolutely central to their lives and also important in their writings. Hume and Smith were both lifelong bachelors, so their relationships with each other and with their other friends were the most meaningful ties they had (along with Smith’s close relationship with his mother). And both of them claimed repeatedly, throughout their philosophical works, that friendship is an indispensable component of a good and happy life. Hume declared that “friendship is the chief joy of human life,” for instance, and Smith proclaimed that the esteem and affection of one’s friends constitutes “the chief part of human happiness.”

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Dennis Rasmussen.

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How to Talk About Empiricism published 27/08/2017

Empiricists in the philosophy of science take the basic criterion of success in science to be empirical, with the ultimate aim of empirically adequate theories, accurate representation of what is accessible to human observation and manipulation. Theories and the search for explanation are important, but instrumentally, as roads toward greater empirical knowledge. Empiricism is not skepticism, nor anti-realism in any general sense, it is just anti-scientific-realism. Empiricism as it is now can be combined with a ‘common sense realism’ that sees no difficulties in our reference to trees, rocks, persons, lasers, electron microscopes, interferometers, radio telescopes …. or, in their own way, optical phenomena such as rainbows and images produced by microscopes, to give some examples.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Bas C. van Fraassen.

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Aristotelian Metaphysics published 19/08/2017

In understanding priority in Aristotle’s metaphysics we should first ask about the respect in which we are viewing priority: is it priority in time, in account, in definition, in knowledge, or in being, substance, and nature? I argue that the central notion, in the sense of what plays the role of a criterion for what counts as fundamentally real –Aristotle’s primary substance– or even in the sense of what being fundamentally real (partly) consists in, is ontological priority (in respect of being, substance, or nature).

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Michail Peramatzis.

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Causation, Probability and Philosophy published 14/08/2017

It’s a mistake to analyze actual causation and think that you have thereby analyzed causation. The surface grammar of our language is misleading in this regard. Consider philosophers’ favorite example: “Suzy’s throwing her rock caused the bottle to smash”. This statement describes a relation of actual causation, but there is nothing in the wording to indicate that a specialized causal concept is involved. The word “caused” seems to suggest a fully general notion of causation. One of the clues that this is wrong is that many concepts that involve a causal dimension don’t involve actual causation.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Christopher Hitchcock.

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On Doing and Allowing Harm published 05/08/2017

I do not think you would be required to sacrifice your own life to save the child or indeed to sustain permanent major physical damage to your body which would leave you severely mentally or physically incapacitated for life. It would probably be morally admirable to do so, but this is not something that can be demanded from people. Requirements to sacrifice yourself in this except under truly exceptional circumstances undermine your authority over your own body.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Fiona Woollard.

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On the Nature of Truth published 30/07/2017

‘Believe only what is true!’ is a useless epistemic norm. It’s correct, but it cannot guide us, because what we need are criteria we can actually apply; truth, however, isn’t a criterion we can directly test. ‘Believe only what is consistent with your entire belief system!’ is similarly useless. By Church’s theorem we cannot test a given set of axioms for its consistency. In general, this is beyond the computational powers of the best ideal computer.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Volker Halbach.

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The Happiness Philosopher published 22/07/2017

Bentham was undeniably strange, one of the strangest human beings who ever lived. In my view, it was the acute kindness of his disposition that drove him to formulate proposals that his many critics have seized upon as revealing that “iron cage” of modernity that you mentioned earlier–the Panopticon prison system, control through architecture and surveillance, being one of the primary examples. But he spun off so many elaborate schemes that it is very difficult to see how they fit together, especially as part of a historical trajectory headed toward a better society.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Bart Schultz.

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Descrying the World of Physics published 14/07/2017

While physics has had tremendous successes it is still an open question whether there is fundamental ontology and laws and if there is whether they can be found by the methods of physics. To the extent that this aim of physics is achieved we should be able to understand how what Sellars calls “the manifest image” emerges from fundamental physics. That is what I mean by “descrying the world in physics.”

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Barry Loewer.

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