28th Philosophers’ Carnival

10 April 2006

Welcome to the 28th Philosophers' Carnival and the Academe of Philosophical Studies at the University of No Where. This carnival, as well as other past ones, aims to present some of the most enlightening philosophical posts from many different weblogs for the reading pleasure of philosophically-inclined readers.

School of Athens

This is the Great Hall of Scholars, located at the centre of the Academe. From here visitors can go to any Houses.

All of the articles chosen for this carnival have been divided into categories. Each one is sponsored by a House in the Academe of Philosophical Studies, although several of the articles can be classified into more than one House. (This shows that different disciplines in Philosophy are related). Refer to the following list for easy access to all Houses:

List of Houses

I. House of History of Philosophy
II. House of Metaphysics
III. House of Epistemology
IV. House of Philosophy of Mind
V. House of Philosophical Logic
VI. House of Philosophy of Mathematics
VII. House of Philosophy of Language
VIII. House of Ethics
IX. House of Aesthetics
X. House of Philosophy of Science
XI. House of Philosophy of Religion
XII. House of Pseudophilosophy

The following table of contents has been prepared in case visitors get lost in Houses.

Table of Contents

i. The Milesian Philosophers
ii. Divine Atemporality and Tensed Facts
iii. Time Travel and Backwards Causation
iv. Philosophical Implications of Inflationary Cosmology
v. Moreland's Substance Dualism Part II: An Argument from the Indexicality of Thoughts
vi. Davidson on Minds, Events, and Causes
vii. Unchanging Time and the Infinite Past
viii. Belief, Doubt, Justification, and Knowledge
ix. Epistemology, Pt. II
x. From Fundamentality to Ubiquity
xi. There Is No Evidence for That
xii. Mathematical Miracles
xiii. Language is a Model
xiv. Insensitive Semantics: Testing for Context Sensitivity
xv. Abortion and Rape
xvi. Male-Female Differential and Rape
xvii. Fine Distinction in Comparing Kant and Aristotle on Moral Psychology
xviii. The Value of Biodiversity
xix. A Modest Question about Method
xx. If a Robot Copies Itself, Does It Count as Plagiarizing?
xxi. Are Evolution and Theism Compatible?
xxii. Near Death Experience
xxiii. AP Philosophy Exam?

And now the University of No Where is proud to announce the commencement of the 28th Philosophers' Carnival. Visitors can start going into Houses to read and enjoy the submitted articles.

***


I. House of History of Philosophy


i. The Milesian Philosophers

ThalesIf one is to become a philosopher, it is necessary that one read what other past philosophers have said. In this article, Kristopher (or Mathetes) offers a concise introduction into the thoughts of the Milesian philosophers, namely Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, and their influence on western philosophy. He explains that:

[they] gained their titles of first philosophers by largely dissenting from the opinions of their predecessors. These philosophers left behind the mythological accounts of creation and the anthropomorphisms of the gods that the older generation of thinkers felt essential to a description of the kosmos.

This is what distinguishes these three philosophers. Indeed, Mathetes comments:

Their breaking with traditional cosmologies of gods and mythology left them with the ability to ponder and reason out the origins of the kosmos. Beginning with a basic principle of all things, these philosophers moved on to explain the entire universe in relation to this principle.

History is full of valuable lessons and in a sense determines what we will do in the future. What we can learn from the three Milesian philosophers is to question inherited beliefs in mythology, culture, etc. and to project ideas for ourselves. In other words, if we are to make any progress in anything, we need to think for ourselves and not stick to commonly held ideas.

II. House of Metaphysics

ii. Divine Atemporality and Tensed Facts

Time Clocks

It is oftentimes difficult for human beings to fathom God as being both omniscient and atemporal whilst still holding that there are tensed facts. In the 'dynamic time series', future becomes present, and present retreats to past. Given that tensed facts constantly move in series, how does an atemporal and omniscient God know when is 'now'? It seems that we have to deny either omniscience or atemporality for one of these two attributes to work.

In this post, Prosblogion presents several arguments by the two philosophers William Lane Craign and Brian Leftow in defence of divine atemporality. Craig's view is that God 'exists in a parallel time dimension that has no duration, [i.e] a point-dimension' whereas Leftow contrariwise believes that 'eternity includes all temporal events in eternity with God rather than having God in time with temporal events'. Similarly, whilst the A-theory of time says that we do not know when is now on a timeline from start to finish, the B-theory claims that the concept of 'now' is just like the concept of 'here'. (Refer to this paper for an in-depth introduction to the two theories).

iii. Time Travel and Backwards Causation

Is time travel to the past possible? If it is, does it require backwards causation? These are exactly the kind of questions Carrie Jenkins (or Long Words Bother Me) asks. Although she could not provide any adequate answer to them, several of the commenters attempted to do so. One of the commenters, Alex Skiles says:

I am prepared to claim that satisfying the connotations of causation presents very strong evidence that backward time travel would count as causation.

And Helga von porno confesses:

It is clear that backward causation is at odd with the logic of our way of thinking of the universe and the possibilites of space and time. But this should be projected onto reality itself. Backward causation is very hard to verify experimentally. How would one do it? To empirically discover a case of backward causation would be a work of genius.

iv. Philosophical Implications of Inflationary Cosmology

 

Inflationary CosmologyAs the title suggests, this post aims to introduce the philosophical implications of inflationary cosmology and links to multiple scholarly papers on the subject. Tyler Cowen (or Marginal Revolution), the author, thinks that since there are infinite other universes and an infinite number of possibilities, our action does not matter or make any difference to the whole. He advocates that we should not care about how we could have done something better. He explains:

Since that problem threatened to bring morality to its knees anyway ("what do you mean, you "could" have done something different? You did what you had to do."), maybe I don't feel so bad after all.

The House of Metaphysics strongly recommend that the reader read the second paper, called 'Infinite Ethics', linked to on that blog. It is very well-written and will provide the reader with the necessary background to understand the 'philosophical implications of Inflationary Cosmology'.

 

v. Moreland's Substance Dualism Part II: An Argument from the Indexicality of Thoughts

In this post, Keith (a contributor of Summa Philosophiae) attempts to overview one of Moreland's arguments in favour of substance dualism, which is the argument from the indexicality of thoughts. Then he delves into discussing the argument itself.

vi. Davidson on Mind, Events, and Causes

This post by Mormon Metaphysics is a discussion of anomalous monism and how Davidson deals with Kant's problem of mental freedom and physical determinism. Mormon Metaphysics starts with a basic summary of Davidson's position and then proceeds to discuss Davidson's approach and to critique his argument.

vii. Unchanging Time and the Infinite Past

This post by Richard Chappell (or Philosophy, et cetera) argues against conceptions which see the 'now' as moving through time. Such a picture may lead one to conclude that there couldn't be an infinite past, or else the present couldn't have been 'reached' yet. Chappell argues that this is a mistake, and that the idea of an infinite past is perfectly coherent.

III. House of Epistemology

viii. Belief, Doubt, Justification, and Knowledge

Theory of Knowledge

What roles do belief and doubt play in obtaining knowledge? How much certainty is needed and what level of justification should one have before being willing to say 'I know that x is the case'? Such are the questions that this essay, written by the House of Epistemology, attempts to answer. As the questions suggest, this essay opens with the surmise that knowledge is justified true belief and then proceeds to explain how one deals with belief, truth, and justification in obtaining knowledge. The essay concludes by encouraging the reader to reflect carefully before judging whether or not he 'knows that x is the case'.

ix. Epistemology, Pt. II

Can one trust one's perception all the time? How does one justify one's belief in perception? Are there different kinds of justifiedness?

In this post, Tands (or Humorless Harangues) discusses different kinds of justifiedness and dissimiliar modes of perception. He writes about the process of being justified and the state of being justified:

My current experience of listening to Part's music lends to the process of being justified that music is playing. However, a state of justifiedness need not arise from this process since I may or may not develop a belief about the music being played.

This leads to the distinction between the three modes of perception that enable one to experience the process of being justified that music is playing. Three modes are perceiving of, perceiving to be, and perceiving that. Although it is not made clear in the post what the role of these three modes is in obtaining knowledge, one can still infer that they shape what kinds of justification one is likely to make to justify one's beliefs by perception.

IV. House of Philosophy of Mind

x. From Fundamentality to Ubiquity

This post discusses a recent paper by Galen Strawson and projects that if experience is non emergent then it is, therefore, a property of fundamental entities. Justin (or Panexperientialism), the author of the post, addresses the 'issue of whether or not, if it is true that experience cannot emerge (in the sense described by Strawson above) from the non-experiential, it follows from this that some ultimates must be experiential'.

V. House of Philosophical Logic

xi. There is no evidence for that

It is amazing how ignorant some people can become during debate. They are simply not aware of a logical fallacy called argumentum ad ignorantiam (assuming that something is true because it has not yet been proven false) when arguing. 'There is no evidence for that' is a popular form of this fallacy: one hears it in debates surrounding evolution and creationism, science and religion, and global warming. In this critique, Stop That Crow! provides a number of examples from these debates to show 'how [There is no evidence for that] is (mis)appropriated' and then proceeds to 'discuss the proper use of this line in relation to the burdens of proof and rejoinder'. He offers a reason why people get into the habit of making the logical fallacy:

The reason for this immense flexibility is that it takes absolutely no acquaintance with the facts of the matter, whatever that matter may be, and furthermore requires no evidence in support of it. After all, how could there possibly be affirmative evidence for the assertion that there is no evidence for something?

What he says here is indeed true. For a belief/theory to be reasonable there should be some positive evidence for it. This is nicely expressed by the prominent biologist Richard Dawkins:

There is an infinity of possible things that one might believe – unicorns, fairies, millions of things [God included?] – and just because you can't disprove them doesn't mean there is anything plausible about them

Likewise, just because 'there is no evidence for that' does nothing to make it true or false. What one needs is positive evidence to prove that it is the case. Contrariwise, to disprove something one needs positive evidence that it is not the case.


VI. House of Philosophy of Mathematics

xii. Mathematical Miracles

Morley's Trisector Theorem

A mathematical miracle is something that appears seemingly inexplicable by laws of mathematics or mankind's current understanding of things. Even when a mathematical miracle is 'understood' and 'explained', it still seems to leave mathematicians in awe of its deep truth. Indeed, Morley's triangle (aka Morley's trisector theorem) is one of those profound mathematical miracles. Here in this post David Corfield (or Philosophy of Real Mathematics) mentions Morley's miracle. He also asserts that 'some philosophers of mathematics have considered trying out notions of essence and explanation in their field' and attempts to 'look for parallels of laws, natural kinds, and [mathematical] miracles'. He thinks that several mathematical miracles may be 'surprising consequences of physical laws'. Thus it seems to him that physics and mathematics are not 'so very dissimilar' after all.


VII. House of Philosophy of Language

xiii. Language is a Model

Language is not always explicit. In order to understand language, it is necessary to make assumptions. In this post, Lea asserts that assumptions are background to any language and believes that 'language is dependent on the speakers being able to lead the listeners to choose the same background assumptions that accompany everything we say'. She explains by giving an example:

[…] "Hi, I'm Lea."

"What do you mean you're Lea? That girl over there said she's Lea. How can both of you be Lea? Is there some super-Lea being that is both of you?"

Indeed, without assumptions, how are we to know which Lea someone is referring to?

xiv. Insensitive Semantics: Testing for Context Sensitivity

In Insensitive Semantics, Cappelen and Lepore gives three tests for context sensitivity. In this post, Phosphorus argues that the tests show that Cappelen and Lepore support the conclusion that quantifiers like 'every' are context sensitive, albeit in the book they claim that quantifiers are not.


VIII. House of Ethics

xv. Abortion and Rape

Aborted Unborn Baby

In this controversial post, Peter Thurley (or Dinner Table Donts) argues that neither supporters of abortion nor their detractors can be permitted to introduce considerations of rape or incest into the debate on the morality of abortion. The introduction of these considerations is a red herring, and takes the interlocutors' attention away from the morality of the act of aborting a fetus and places it on the morality of the act of rape or incest. Indeed, he says:

In short, the rape/incest argument is irrelevant to the question of whether abortion is right or wrong, as it diverts attention from the morality of the act of abortion to discussion about the morality of rape or incest.

[…]

In short, appeals to rape and incest are nothing more than mere emotional drawstrings, a red herring attempt to get one side of the debate (usually the pro-lifer) to soften her stance and admit that there may be situations in which abortion might be permissible.

xvi. The Male-Female Differential and Rape

Speaking of rape, this post by Jeremy (a member of the Parablemen) looks at an argument from Laurence Thomas that 'women have a moral power that men lack due to the male-female differential with respect to heterosexual rape'. It discusses the argument and raises several questions about the credibility of the argument. Jeremy asserts that 'men can rape women in ways that women can't rape men' and proceeds to explain why that is the case in terms of desire and what he calls 'power differentials'.

xvii. Fine Distinction in Comparing Kant and Aristotle on Moral Psychology

Too much abortion and rape can exhaust the reader and leave him in need of some clean air. Hence, the House of Ethics introduces this post, written by Ben Miller (or Prima Facie) about the fine distinction in Kantian and Aristotelian moral psychology and ethics.

xviii. The Value of Biodiversity

Most people agree that biodiversity is valuable and should be preserved. Is there any reason for this? In this post, Martin Rundkvist (or Salto Sobrius) offers two rationales for this position: environmental danger and aesthetic dissatisfaction. For the second rationale (curious as it is), he explains:

[C]onsider a species of yellow toad restricted to a single valley in Papua New Guinea. Its habitat is severely threatened by logging, and chances are it'll be extinct in a few years. The passing of this rare toad species is of no practical concern to humans, and the locals won't miss it. But people in the West, like me, will mourn the toad. Not because it had any intrinsic value, but because it was a fun animal to study.


IX. House of Aesthetics

xix. A Modest Question about Method

Do aesthetic theorists always pay attention to what artists do and say? Do they always formulate their aesthetic theories according to the realities of artwork practice? Robert Kraut (or Philosophy of Art), the author of this post, does not think that they always do. He writes:

If some aspect of artworld practice appears inconsistent with their theory, they tend to dismiss that aspect of artworld practice as irrelevant…

and then proceeds to ask questions concerning aesthetic theories and theorists.


X. House of Philosophy of Science


xx. If a robot copies itself, does it count as plagiarizing?

It seems that replication is generally considered one of the criteria that define what life is. It is widely agreed amongst biologists that for something to be 'living' or 'alive' it needs to replicate itself. However, this is quite a problematic definition of life. For instance, it is known that viruses are capable of replicating themselves by injecting their DNA into host cells, but does this mean that they are 'living'? Some say they are not because they lack the necessary machinery to self-replicate. But how about a robot that can replicate itself? Does it follow that it is 'alive'?

self-replicating robot

In this post, Frederic Bouchard (or Philosophy of Biology) links to a clip that shows a robot in the process of self-replication. The post, as well as the comments following it, is thought-provoking: it challenges biologists to question the criterion of replication which they use to define life. Here is the challenge:

Q: if robots can eventually replicate, does that mean that robots are alive or that replication is not a good criterion for defining life?

A commenter answers:

A: replication (whether by a robot or crystalline matter) suggests that replication isn't a sufficient condition, though it might still be necessary for a thing to be alive.

Another one asks a question that deserves some thoughts in reponse to the issue:

What makes us alive but not the robot?

XI. House of Philosophy of Religion

xxi. Are evolution and theism compatible?

It seems that ever since Darwin published The Origin of Species, the clash between science and religion began. (Or did it start when Galileo Galilei publish his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican? Perhaps this clash has been around for an even longer period of time than that!) Can the two ever co-exist? Perhaps, but reconciling the two is not an easy job. In this post, Alejandro Satz (or Reality Conditions) discusses and critiques a paper by Alexander Pruss that claims that the theory of evolution is incompatible with theism, because they provide conflicting explanations for our existence. He argues that this involves a confusion of naturalistic explanations with trascendental ones.

XII. House of Pseudophilosophy

xxii. Near Death Experience

 

NDE Tunnel

In this post, Wandering Visitor conjectures about the nature of near death experience. He writes:

Part of me feels like they probably are very real experiences to the people that experience them, and we, as humans, probably all have the capacity to experience NDE's. But there's also part of me that wonders, of the people who experienced NDE's, how many of them were on the more sensitive, more "magical thinking" side (as the DSM IV – the text psychiatrists use to diagnose psychiatric disorders – puts it) and how much of what one's NDE experience depends on cultural experiences.

Most of the post discusses a DVD that the author watched and how interesting it is. He goes on to project several more speculations. In conclusion, he writes:

[W]e're stuck in the box we've created – holding on to our version of reality as the only possible version of reality.

xxiii. AP Philosophy Exam?

 

It is unfortunate that not many pupils are exposed to philosophy in early years of their education, unless they do the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, which offers philosophy at both Higher and Standard Levels. In this post, Brian Hillman (or The Brosius Blog) suggests the possibility of bringing philosophy to upper secondary school currciulum in the United States of America (not to confuse this 'democratic' union with other federations). There is one obvious advantage of introducing philosophy to upper secondary school pupils: a course in general philosophy would help them think more critically and appreciate the humanities. But it is necessary to keep in mind a disadvantage: it is likely that these teenagers, emotionally fragile and immature as they are, would perhaps go through depression or commit suicide as a result of studying philosophy.

***

This post concludes the 28th Philosophers' Carnival, though the visitors can still stay to look around the Academe of Philosophical Studies and the University of No Where. They can, for instance, view one of the rigorous courses offered at the Academe or take a look at the official university logo, which will be integrated into the template soon.

It is hoped that the 28th Philosophers' Carnival was an enjoyable experience for the philosophically-inclined readers, experts as well as laymen. It is necessary to keep in mind that the next Philosophers' Carnival will be hosted at Daylight Atheism on 1 May 2006, in case the readers would like to read more philosophy.

Adieu.

General Philosophy I Syllabus

17 March 2006

Overview: General Philosophy I is an introduction to many fundamental concepts and theories of philosophy. It is aimed at the novice, who has had little or no knowledge in philosophy prior to this course. Students taking this course are encouraged to think critically and to assume positions from different perspectives. It is hoped that the students are tolerant enough to assess and evaluate new ideas fairly and to learn from them. Topics covered in this course will include: (1) a little bit of logic, (2) some history of philosophy from the pre-Socratics to Derrida, (3) concepts of God and the cosmological argument, (4) some ethics (the problem of evil, moral relativism, etc.), and (5) personal identity.

Professor: Prof. D
Aristotelian Professor of Theoretical Philosophy
University of No Where (aka University of Metaphysics)
E-mail: universityofnowhere@gmail.com
The professor’s blog: https://universityofnowhere.wordpress.com/

Course Requirements:

  • Reading: Students are required to read a wide range of selected materials available online from different sources and lectures to enhance their understanding of the topics covered in the course.
  • Class Discussion: Philosophy should not be passively learnt. It is highly advised that the students, after reading the materials thoroughly, either discuss the reading with the professor or ask questions relevant to it.
  • Three Essays: Students are not required to write these three essays though it is advised that they do so in order to apply what they have learnt throughout the course. The topics for the three essays will be determined much later during the course by the professor.
  • Individual Oral Presentation: The students should, but are not required to, choose a topic covered in the course and study it in detail with help from the professor. Then they will take a stance on an issue or problem within that topic and defend it. The viva voce will be assessed by the professor.
  • Midterm Exam and Final Exam: Again, it is not required that the students take the midterm and final exams, though if they are motivated and passionate about philosophy, they will take them. The midterm exam will cover roughly 50% of the entire syllabus and the final exam 100%.

Core Contents:

I. A Little Bit of Logic

  • Deduction
  • Induction
  • Fallacies

II. Some History of Philosophy

  • The Pre-Socratics
  • Socrates and Plato
  • Aristotle
  • Medieval Philosophy
  • Descartes
  • Spinoza
  • Kant
  • Hume
  • Nietzsche
  • Wittgenstein
  • Sartre
  • Derrida
  • History of Empiricism & Rationalism
  • History of Doubt (Philosophical Scepticism)
  • History of Philosophical Literature
  • History of Applied Philosophy

III. God

  • Arguments for God’s Existence
  • Religion & Science
  • Religion & Experience
  • Theism & Atheism
  • The Problem of Evil
  • Religious Language
  • New Ideas of God
  • Swinburne, ‘Why God Allows Evil’
  • Dostoevskian Concept of God
  • Postmodern View of Faith

IV. Ethics

  • Ethical scepticism
  • Moral Relativism
  • Normative Ethics
  • Religion and Ethics
  • Applied Ethics
  • Meta-ethics

V. Personal Identity

  • Know Thyself
  • Consciousness
  • Existence
  • Free Will & Determinism

Other Notes: Course materials are e-mailed regularly to the students. Notes on the reading can be found on the professor’s blog. To sign up for the course, simply fill in your name and e-mail address and post a comment. The course will start soon in the summer 2006.

Edit to add: I’ve been very busy with academic works. My apologies. I hope to start the course sometime in the near future.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.