Philosophers who influenced us: David Hume & Arthur Danto

Recently Dan Kaufman and I have had another of our recurrent conversations, this time a second installment of an occasional series that we might call “philosophers who influenced us” (the previous one featured Bertrand Russell, on my part, and Gilbert Ryle for Dan).

This time I picked David Hume, the empiricist and skeptic who famously awoke Kant from his “dogmatic slumber,” and who — I think — is still not appreciated as much as he should be for his impact not just on subsequent philosophy (including epistemology, ethics and aesthetics), but on science as well. Dan’s pick was the philosopher of aesthetic and highly impactful critic of art Arthur Danto, who developed one of the most recent and compelling theories of art to date.

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Posted in Aesthetics, Epistemology, Ethics | 114 Comments

Plato’s weekend suggestions

readingsHere it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

So, despite one of last week’s picks, it may be too early to declare the demise of Chomsky’s theory of universal grammar.

Using analogies properly: we need to go back to Aristotle and Wittgenstein.

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Posted in Plato's Suggestions | 172 Comments

On panpsychism

PanpsychismPanpsychism is in the news. Check out, for instance, this Oxford University Press blog entry by Godehard Brüntrup and Ludwig Jaskolla. Brüntrup is the Erich J. Lejeune Chair at the Munich School of Philosophy, has published a monograph on mental causation, and is the author of a bestselling introduction to the philosophy of mind. Jaskolla, in turn, is a lecturer in philosophy of mind at the same school, his research focusing on the metaphysics and phenomenology of persons, the philosophy of psychology, and the philosophy of action.

In other words, these are serious people. And so is the paladino-par-excellence of panpsychism, NYU’s David Chalmers. Why, then, are they lending their weight to such a bizarre notion? Let’s talk about it.
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Posted in Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind | 284 Comments

Plato’s weekend suggestions

readingsHere it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

Chomsky’s theory of language dying by many small empirical cuts, as it often happens in science.

What does it feel like when we die?

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Posted in Plato's Suggestions | 217 Comments

Munchausen’s trilemma and the impossibility of certain truth

Munchausen'S bootstrapOne day the Baron Munchausen found himself stuck in a mire together with his horse. The situation was dire, but he managed to save himself (and his horse!) by pulling his hair up until he was lifted out of the mud.

Obviously, Munchausen’s feat is impossible, as it violates the law of gravity. So it is fitting that it gives the name to the most compelling demonstration of the impossibility of another impossibility that human beings have been after for quite some time: certain knowledge.

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Posted in Epistemology, Logic | 210 Comments

Plato’s weekend suggestions

readings

Here it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

A brief history of television through the life of Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone.

The philosophy of behavioral genetics, a book review by my friend and former collaborator Jonathan Kaplan.

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Posted in Plato's Suggestions | 160 Comments

Should we stop using the term “pseudoscience”?

Pseudoscience cartoonThe term “pseudoscience” is obviously pejorative. Nobody wishes whatever he does to be labeled with that appellative. Recently, Katie Burke has written an essay for American Scientist arguing that we should drop it altogether. It isn’t the first time someone makes this suggestion, and I’m betting it won’t be the last one. Here is why Burke and others are wrong.

Pseudoscience refers to “any body of knowledge that purports to be scientific or to be supported by science but which fails to comply with the scientific method,” though since there is no such thing as the┬áscientific method, I would rather modify the above to read “with currently accepted scientific standards.”

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Posted in Philosophy of Science | 189 Comments