Superficially, dreidel appears to be a simple game of luck, and a badly designed game at that. It lacks balance, clarity, and (apparently) meaningful strategic choice. From this perspective, its prominence in the modern Hannukah tradition is puzzling. …
. In preparation for a new post that takes up some of the recent battles on reforming or replacing p-values, I reblog an older post on power, one of the most misunderstood and abused notions in statistics. …
Anna Alexandrova, A Philosophy for the Science of Well-Being (OUP, 2017)Here’s an attitude I sometimes encounter among scientists: “It is not my job as a scientist to figure out what true well-being is and to choose my constructs accordingly. …
Like most other ancient philosophers, Plato maintains a virtue-based
eudaemonistic conception of ethics. That is to say, happiness or
well-being (eudaimonia) is the highest aim of moral thought
and conduct, and the virtues (aretê:
‘excellence’) are the requisite skills and dispositions
needed to attain it. If Plato’s conception of happiness is
elusive and his support for a morality of happiness seems somewhat
subdued, there are several reasons. First, he nowhere defines the
concept or makes it the direct target of investigation, but introduces
it in an oblique way in the pursuit of other questions.
[Thanks to the Singularity Bros podcast for inspiring me to write this post. It was a conversation I had with the hosts of this podcast that prompted me to further elaborate on the idea of ethical behaviourism.] …
Pierre Bayle (1647–1706) was a Huguenot, i.e., a French
Protestant, who spent almost the whole of his productive life as a
refugee in Holland. His life was devoted entirely to scholarship, and
his erudition was second to none in his, or perhaps any,
period. Although much of what he wrote was embedded in technical
religious issues, for a century he was one the most widely read
philosophers. In particular, his Dictionnaire historique et
critique was among the most popular works of the eighteenth
century. The content of this huge and strange, yet fascinating work is
difficult to describe: history, literary criticism, theology,
obscenity, in addition to philosophical treatments of toleration, the
problem of evil, epistemological questions, and much more.
Kuhn argued that scientific theory choice is, in some sense, a rational matter, but one that is not fully determined by shared objective scientific virtues like accuracy, simplicity, and scope. Okasha imports Arrow’s impossibility theorem into the context of theory choice to show that rather than not fully determining theory choice, these virtues cannot determine it at all. If Okasha is right, then there is no function (satisfying certain desirable conditions) from ‘preference’ rankings supplied by scientific virtues over competing theories (or models, or hypotheses) to a single all-things-considered ranking. This threatens the rationality of science. In this paper we show that if Kuhn’s claims about the role that subjective elements play in theory choice are taken seriously, then the threat dissolves.
« The destruction of graduate education in the United States
As everyone knows, the flaming garbage fire of a tax bill has passed the Senate, thanks to the spinelessness of John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and Jeff Flake. …
I'm puzzled that in the literature on the nature of sex, gender, race, etc., there are so few philosophers who take a biological realist stance. Maybe this is a function of who is drawn to these topics. …
My interest in what is now called the science of well-being dates back to my graduate school days at UC San Diego. Sometime in the mid-aughts I came across a debate between psychologists who advanced ‘hedonic profile’ measures of happiness and those who favoured life satisfaction questionnaires. …
Via Wikimedia Commons
We’ve all heard the saying “Guns don’t kill people, people do”. It’s a classic statement of the value-neutrality thesis. This is the thesis that technology, by itself, is value-neutral. …
Case 1: A child is drowning in a dirty pond. You can easily pull out the child. But you’ve got cuts all over your dominant arm and the water is full of nasty bacteria and medical help is a week away. …
Philosophy of the Social Sciences 2017, Vol. 47(6) 410 –439 © The Author(s) 2017 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0048393117726172 https://doi.org/10.1177/0048393117726172 journals.sagepub.com/home/pos Many existing defenses of group rights seem to rely on the notion of group freedom. To date, however, no adequate analysis of this notion has been offered. Group freedom is best understood in terms of processes of social categorization that are embedded in social mechanisms. Such processes often give rise to group-specific constraints and enablements. On the proposed social mechanism account, group rights are demands for group freedom. Even so, group rights often serve to eradicate individual unfreedom. Furthermore, generic measures sometimes provide the most appropriate solution to a problem of group unfreedom.
Most marriages begin with an agreement that the relationship be permanent: “till death do us part”, or various equivalents. It is widely recognised that such agreements are not always kept, and in societies where divorce is common, the partners may even reasonably suspect the arrangement will not last until one of the parties dies. Still, marriage until one of the partners dies is the norm.
John Anderson (1893–1962) was a Scottish philosopher who worked
primarily in Australia. In 1927 he was appointed to the Challis Chair
of Philosophy at the University of Sydney and occupied this position
until his retirement in 1958. In relative isolation he developed a
distinctive realist philosophy which was inspirational for generations
of students at Sydney. While developing this position, he carried most
of the teaching load in philosophy at the university, wrote the
articles for which he is primarily known, and as contributor and
editor kept the Australasian Journal of Psychology and
Feminism is a complex school of thought. Indeed, it’s not really a school of thought at all. It’s many different schools of thought, often uncomfortably lumped together under a single label. Within these schools of thought, there are some that are deeply opposed to mainstream, hardcore pornography. …
The topic of scientific revolutions has been philosophically important
since Thomas Kuhn’s account in The Structure of Scientific
Revolutions (1962, 1970). Kuhn’s death in 1996 and the
fiftieth anniversary of Structure in 2012 have renewed
attention to the issues raised by his work. It is controversial
whether or not there have been any revolutions in the strictly Kuhnian
sense. It is also controversial what exactly a Kuhnian revolution is,
or would be. Although talk of revolution is often exaggerated, most
analysts agree that there have been transformative scientific
developments of various kinds, whether Kuhnian or not.
Via John S Quarterman on Flickr
Many jurisdictions in Europe have laws that criminalise hate speech and there is no shortage of campaigners requesting such prohibitions. The debate is particularly acute on college campuses, where the protection of minority students from such hate speech is increasingly being viewed as central to the university’s mission to provide a ‘safe space’ for education. …
Arguably the foremost social theorist of the twentieth century, Max
Weber is known as a principal architect of modern social science along
with Karl Marx and Emil Durkheim. Weber’s wide-ranging
contributions gave critical impetus to the birth of new academic
disciplines such as sociology as well as to the significant
reorientation in law, economics, political science, and religious
studies. His methodological writings were instrumental in establishing
the self-identity of modern social science as a distinct field of
inquiry; he is still claimed as the source of inspiration by empirical
positivists and their hermeneutic detractors alike.
The ideal of public justification holds, at a minimum, that the most fundamental political and legal institutions of a society must be publicly justified to each of its members. This essay proposes and defends a new account of this ideal. The account defended construes public justification as an ideal of rational justification, one that is grounded in the moral requirement to respect the rational agency of persons. The essay distinguishes two kinds of justifying reasons that bear on politics and shows how they inform the ideal of public justification. It also decouples public justification from contractualist political morality. The result is a novel account of public justification that departs markedly from how the ideal is commonly characterized, but shows how it retains its distinctiveness as an ideal of politics.
Complicity marks out a way that one person can be liable to sanctions for the wrongful conduct of another. After describing the concept and role of complicity in the law, I argue that much of the motivation for presenting complicity as a separate basis of criminal liability is misplaced; paradigmatic cases of complicity can be assimilated into standard causation-based accounts of criminal liability. But unlike others who make this sort of claim I argue that there is still room for genuine complicity in the law and in morality. In defending this claim, I sketch an approach to complicity which grounds our liability for what others do not in our causal relation to their actions but in our “agency-relations” with others. In such cases, one agent can be liable for the wrongs of second agent to the extent that first authorizes the second to act at her behest. This approach fills the gap where standard causation-based accounts of complicity fail – especially in where several agents cooperatively contribute to an overdetermined harm.
Suppose someone (P1) does something that is wrongful only in virtue of the risk that it will enable another person (P2) to commit a wrongdoing. Suppose further that P1’s conduct does indeed turn out to enable P2’s wrongdoing. The resulting wrong is agentially mediated: P1 is an enabling agent and P2 is an intervening agent. Whereas the literature on intervening agency focuses on whether P2’s status as an intervening agent makes P1’s conduct less bad, I turn this issue on its head by investigating whether P1’s status as an enabling agent makes P2’s conduct more bad. I argue that it does: P2 wrongs not just the victims of ϕ but P1 as well, by acting in a way that wrongfully makes P1 accountable for ϕ. This has serious implications for compensatory and defensive liability in cases of agentially mediated wrongs.
Though the duties of care owed toward innocents in war and in civil life are at the bottom univocally determined by the same ethical principles, Bazargan-Forward argues that those very principles will yield in these two contexts different “in-practice” duties. Furthermore, the duty of care we owe toward our own innocents is less stringent than the duty of care we owe toward foreign innocents in war. This is because risks associated with civil life but not war (a) often increase the expected welfare of the individuals upon whom the risk is imposed, (b) are often imposed with consent, and (c) are often imposed reciprocally. The conclusion—that we have a pro tanto reason for adopting a more stringent standard of risk imposition toward foreign innocents in war—has implications for not only what standards of risk we should adopt in war, but also how we should weigh domestic versus foreign civilian lives.
According to a standard interpretation, Plato’s conception of our moral psychology evolved over the course of his written dialogues. In his earlier dialogues, notably the Protagoras, Meno, and Gorgias, Plato’s Socrates maintains that we always do what we believe is best. Many commentators infer from this that Socrates holds that the psyche is simple, in the sense that there is only one ultimate source of motivation: reason. By contrast, in the Republic, Phaedrus, and Timaeus, Socrates holds that the psyche is complex, or has three distinct and semi-autonomous sources of motivation, which he calls the reasoning, spirited, and appetitive parts. While the rational part determines what is best overall and motivates us to pursue it, the spirited and appetitive parts incline us toward different objectives, such as victory, honor, and esteem, or the satisfaction of our desires for food, drink, and sex.
Game-theoretic approaches to social norms have flourished in the recent years, and on first inspection theorists seem to agree on the broad lines that such accounts should follow. By contrast, this paper aims to show that the main two interpretations of social norms are at odds on at least one aspect of social norms, and both fail to account for another aspect.
José Ortega y Gasset (1883–1955) was a prolific and
distinguished Spanish philosopher in the twentieth century. In the
course of his career as philosopher, social theorist, essayist,
cultural and aesthetic critic, educator, politician and editor of the
influential journal, Revista de Occidente, he has written on
a broad range of themes and issues. Among his many books are:
Meditations on Quixote (1914), Invertebrate Spain
(1921), The Theme of Our Time (1923), Ideas on the
Novel (1925), The Dehumanization of Art (1925), What
is Philosophy? (1929), The Revolt of the Masses (1930),
En Torno a Galileo [Man and Crisis] (1933),
History as a System (1935), Man and People
(1939–40), The Origin of Philosophy (1943), The
Idea of Principle in Leibnitz and the Evolution of Deductive
According to Dominic Lopes, expressiveness in pictures should be analyzed solely in terms of “expression looks” of various sorts, namely the look of a figure, a scene and/or a design. But, according to this view, it seems puzzling that expressive pictures should have any emotional effect on their audiences. Yet Lopes explicitly ties his “contour theory” of expression in pictures to empathic responses in spectators. Thus, despite his deflationary account of pictorial expression, he claims that pictures can give us practice in various “empathic skills.” I argue that Lopes’s account of empathic responses to pictures, while interesting and enlightening, nevertheless ignores the most important way in which pictures exercise and enhance our empathic skills, namely, by giving us practice in taking the emotional perspective of another person.
This article develops an account of local epistemic practices on the basis of case studies from ethnobiology. I argue that current debates about objectivity often stand in the way of a more adequate understanding of local knowledge and ethno-biological practices in general. While local knowledge about the biological world often meets criteria for objectivity in philosophy of science, general debates about the objectivity of local knowledge can also obscure their unique epistemic features. In modification of Ian Hacking’s suggestion to discuss “ground level questions” instead of objectivity, I propose an account that focuses on both epistemic virtues and vices of local epistemic practices.
We investigate the conflict between the ex ante and ex post criteria of social welfare in a new framework of individual and social decisions, which distinguishes between two sources of uncertainty, here interpreted as an objective and a subjective source respectively. This framework makes it possible to endow the individuals and society not only with ex ante and ex post preferences, as is usually done, but also with interim preferences of two kinds, and correspondingly, to introduce interim forms of the Pareto principle. After characterizing the ex ante and ex post criteria, we present a first solution to their conflict that extends the former as much possible in the direction of the latter. Then, we present a second solution, which goes in the opposite direction, and is also maximally assertive. Both solutions translate the assumed Pareto conditions into weighted additive utility representations, and both attribute to the individuals common probability values on the objective source of uncertainty, and different probability values on the subjective source. We discuss these solutions in terms of two conceptual arguments, i.e., the by now classic spurious unanimity argument and a novel informational argument labelled complementary ignorance.
The notion of preference has a central role in many disciplines,
including moral philosophy and decision theory. Preferences and their
logical properties also have a central role in rational choice theory,
a subject that in its turn permeates modern economics, as well as
other branches of formalized social science. The notion of preference
and the way it is analysed vary between these disciplines. A treatment
is still lacking that takes into account the needs of all usages and
tries to combine them in a unified approach. This entry surveys the
most important philosophical uses of the preference concept and
investigates their compatibilities and conflicts.