:: The End Times

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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The Fall and Rise of Louis Althusser published 07/07/2017

Like Galileo with astronomy and Darwin with biology, Althusser argued that Marx opened up a new “scientific continent.” According to him, what makes Marx’s or Darwin’s or Galileo’s thought scientific is not necessarily their empirical investigations but the fact that each developed new understandings of certain types of objects. These objects and concepts could then be investigated and our understanding of them developed using scientific methods of research. For Darwin, obviously, the chief concept was that of natural selection. However, there are other concepts such as mutation, heredity, and adaptation which comprise evolutionary theory as a whole and that Darwin needed but did not name in his work (it took others like Mendel to do so). Similarly, For Marx, the chief concept in the Marxist science of historical materialism is that of class struggle.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews William Lewis.

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Philosophers Wrong About Knowledge Since Plato Bombshell! published 01/07/2017

First of all, it is a lie that philosophers traditionally defined knowledge as justified true belief (“JTB”). Gettier criticized a view that nearly no philosopher ever held. Roderick Chisholm might have been, at one point, the only one. Second, there was never any evidence that JTB was the “commonsense” view either, and recent work by experimental philosophers, particularly Christina Starmans and Ori Friedman, shows that it is not the commonsense view. So it was a fake problem, with no basis in either commonsense epistemology or the history of the discipline. Finally, the problem is not hard to solve.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews John Turri.

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Law published 24/06/2017

I was delighted when I reached the remark, “What is an electric field? Is it something real, or is it merely a name for a factor in an equation which has to be multiplied by something else to give the numerical value of the force we measure in an experiment?” Finally, I remember thinking, here at last was the sort of question that I wanted us to pursue. But the textbook went on to say that “since it works, it doesn’t make any difference. That is not a frivolous answer, but a serious one.” I felt ashamed of my obvious intellectual immaturity and bad taste.

Continuing the End Times series, Richard Marshall interviews Marc Lange.

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