Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 68

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

It’s possible I’m missing something, but this smells too much of postmodern nonsense about immunology.

Foucault understood the Stoics only in part, but he got something out of ’em by the end of his life.

A temporary marriage makes more sense than marriage for life (though why marriage to begin with?).

A well balanced follow up to the discussion on whether the philosophy curriculum should be “decolonized.”

The circles of American financial hell and what causes them.

How to do social media shaming in an ethical way (though I’m not convinced it is actually possible).

6 big differences that turn city dwellers into liberals (very down to earth and enlightening).

Not from Venus, not from Mars: what we believe about gender and why it’s often wrong.

163 thoughts on “Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 68

  1. wtc48

    synred: “Salt Lake (were my Dad was from) is very blue.

    Mormon’s were not always so red and some still aren’t (E.g., Harry Reid).”

    My mother’s family were from SLC, as far back as my grandfather’s immigration from Norway in 1900 (for a long time I thought all Mormons had Scandinavian accents). The Mormons’ position was always that they tithed in order to provide for everyone, and they were against the duplication of services by the (federal) government. After they got statehood, the state government was nearly synonymous with the Mormon church, so they weren’t against government services per se. I’m not a Mormon, so can’t comment on their current position. Like the South, they were actually at war with the US at one point, and they had a similar case for states’ rights, but unlike the South, they didn’t have common cause with surrounding states to back a secession movement. In fact, they were much more interested in joining they union than pursuing a separate condition.

    To relate to the marriage thread: giving up polygamy was one of the conditions for statehood, but in my genealogical research, I found plenty of evidence of it in Utah in the early 20th century.

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  2. SocraticGadfly

    Coel: The definitions of narrowness or broadness of “science” is itself a linguistic or philosophy of science question.

    I can keep going “meta” on every response you give, and will.

    Put the shovel down and stop digging deeper. There’s no way you can win this one, as much as you hate to lose.

    As for your initial response, I never said the definition of Pluto as planet or not would go to some other body besides the International Astronomical Union. I just indicated that, even for such a group, how the decision was made was not a science-only decision.

    Put THAT shovel down and stop digging, too. (Even though I know you won’t, because I’ve never seen you admit on this list that you’re wrong about anything.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Daniel Kaufman

    Coel: Apparently you haven’t figured out that just saying it again, doesn’t make it so. And again, some of the scientists here — including the site owner — disagree with your view of the nature of science and have said so explicitly on numerous occasions.

    Please don’t just say it again. Three times is not the charm.

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  4. Coel

    Dan, Socratic:

    Neither of you actually understand science.

    The definition of “planet” has been and will be decided by scientists considering a whole range of scientific issues (and a few non-scientific ones). Linguists and philosophers have had and will have little or no role in that.

    Further, a bit more self-awareness could be in order when saying things like:

    “Apparently you haven’t figured out that just saying it again, doesn’t make it so”, shortly after things like:

    “And by the way, it is a question that falls within the philosophy of science, not science proper.”

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  5. milesmutka

    The people who should get to decide what is a planet would in my opinion be planetologists, people who study tectonics, vulcanology and various other planetary phenomena. Their 2006 proposal (“any object large enough to achieve hydrostatic equilibrium, but not big enough to become a star”) got apparently voted down by a mob of non-planetologist IAU members, who did not want children to have to memorize the names of more than 40 “planets” in school.

    Personally I am fine with discarding the word “planet” altogether, its etymology being “wandering star”, since we know today that no star is really “fixed”. Instead, we could classify celestial bodies according to size with made-up names like “magnum”, “jeroboam”, all the way up to “nebuchadnessar”.

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  6. SocraticGadfly

    Coel, I’m not sure you understand science, and I KNOW you understand neither philosophy NOR linguistics, so you’ve just been trumped again. Again, the definition of “science” is not purely a scientific endeavor. Once more, drop the shovel.

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  7. Markk

    I can’t imagine a topic less worth fighting over than where precisely the line is between planet and dwarf planet. It’s like arguing about when does a hill become a mountain.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Markk

    Dan:

    I looked up foundationalism and yes, it is not what I thought it was. It is not my view at all. Not to mention not Wittgenstein’s view and not yours.

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  9. brodix

    Markk,

    The primary function of the mind is distinguish, otherwise everything would be blurry. Some people just get caught in a feedback loop and keep spinning.
    They are possessed of knowledge, not necessarily judgement. Which is the next order of function.
    Expand, consolidate.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Daniel Kaufman

    Coel: Does synred not understand science? Because he agreed with Socratic. And as far as scientists go, he’s much more distinguished than you are, given his history with SLAC.

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  11. Massimo Post author

    Not to pull an argument from authority here, but perhaps is time for a scientist and philosopher to weigh in. Both Coel and Dan/Socratic have good points. The definition of a planet, like all definitions, is arbitrary, and therefore a matter of linguistics. That said, in science definitions are obviously theoretically-empirically informed because they have to be of both empirical and theoretical use. That’s why the definition of a planet is something that largely should be left to scientists (like the definition of gene, say). But it is also true that philosophers, especially philosophers of science, can help out (like they do with “gene”) because they are well trained to think about science as well as epistemology, ontology, and so forth. So, can we all just get the fuck along?

    Liked by 5 people

  12. Daniel Kaufman

    Of course it should be left to scientists. Who else? The point is that when one is asking what falls within or outside the boundary of a concept, one is not engaged in scientific investigation.

    Remember Donnellan and is “Whales are mammals” analytic?

    Click to access Donnellan%20-%20Necessity%20and%20Criteria.pdf

    So it’s not a matter of getting along, Massimo. It’s a matter of whether we take every question to be a scientific question, not who should answer the question. Of course scientists should answer it. But not everything scientists do is science. Some of it is lexicography.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Coel

    Markk,

    I can’t imagine a topic less worth fighting over than where precisely the line is between planet and dwarf planet. It’s like arguing about when does a hill become a mountain.

    Not necessarily. If there were merely an undifferentiated continuum then it would indeed be pointless to argue over where to put an arbitrary boundary (indeed it would be fairly pointless to even have the two names). But, it may be that there is a natural “break” in the distribution, and it may be that significantly different processes lead to the two types of thing. In which case, having the two names to distinguish the two and clarifying the relevant concepts would be interesting and worthwhile — and, of course, issues of that latter type are fully scientific.

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  14. brodix

    Then there is the point we accept things really are a little fuzzy and quit going in the same circles.

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  15. Coel

    Just to amplify my last comment:

    “But, it may be that there is a natural “break” in the distribution, and it may be that significantly different processes lead to the two types of thing.”

    On the issue of the criterion: “Clearing the neighbourhood around its orbit”, people have developed quantifications of this. And yes, such measures do show a big and natural difference between “planets” and “dwarf planets”. To quote wiki (the symbols are different quantifications):

    “For all eight planets defined by the IAU, Π is orders of magnitude greater than 1, whereas for all dwarf planets, Π is orders of magnitude less than 1. Also listed are Stern–Levison’s Λ and Soter’s µ; again, the planets are orders of magnitude greater than 1 for Λ and 100 for µ, and the dwarf planets are orders of magnitude less than 1 for Λ and 100 for µ.”

    Thus, on three different measures there are clear and systematic differences by factors of 10,000 or more. And note that these are all based on scientific considerations (the ability to gravitationally perturb other bodies, and empirical data on how such bodies are distributed).

    So Socratic’s starting line (“The “clears out its own orbit” is a matter of philosophy of science or linguistics, or both, as to how thoroughly an object must clean out its orbit to qualify”) is just totally wrong. The considerations taken into account are largely scientific. And this really is not a matter of my usual “broad definition” of science, what Dan and Socratic are arguing is just wrong even on a conventional definition of science.

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  16. Daniel Kaufman

    Funny that you keep leaving out synred, Coel, who also upvoted Socratic’s original comment. I wonder why that is?

    And even you must surely realize that scientists might have divided up planets and dwarf planets along different lines — or even had three or four categories instead of two. That’s the non-scientific, lexicographic dimension of the endeavor.

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  17. Coel

    Dan,

    Funny that you keep leaving out synred, Coel, who also upvoted Socratic’s original comment. I wonder why that is?

    One upvote is rather meagre information to go on. If synred wishes to opine verbally I’ll be happy to take it into consideration. Though you could ask him whether he thinks that concepts such as “baryon” and “lepton” should be defined by particle physicists or by linguists.

    And even you must surely realize that scientists might have divided up planets and dwarf planets along different lines — or even had three or four categories instead of two. That’s the non-scientific, lexicographic dimension of the endeavor.

    Sure they could have, and working out which categories are natural, in the sense of being actual features of the world and not just arbitrary human conventions, is one of the things that science aims to do, adjusting human concepts to best map onto the empirical world and so be the most useful ones for understanding the world. The point is that they seem to break naturally into two categories (planets and dwarf planets), as illustrated in my previous comment.

    And I’ve never denied that there are also other aspects to the “planet” issue, including the history of the word and popular culture.

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  18. Daniel Kaufman

    Coel: I said they should be defined by scientists. Who else? The point is that scientists engage in endeavors other than properly scientific ones. Sometimes they are engaged in lexicographic and other linguistic tasks, as is the case when they are trying to decide how to classify and categorize heavenly bodies.

    Your assumption that there is some easy way of distinguishing natural kinds from other sorts is part of your problem. Indeed, this is a problem that has been at the center of philosophical inquiry for millennia and goes back to Aristotle. FYI, it has not been solved and likely never will be.

    Your simplistic separation of “the world” from the models we make of it is also tremendously problematic and also has been at the center of philosophical inquiry for quite some time. No less than Quine, Davidson, Putnam, and Goodman have banged their heads on this problem, also without any sort of consensus solution emerging.

    Lots of philosophy in there, mixed in with the science. And yes, it is philosophy, not science.

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  19. Coel

    Dan,

    The point is that scientists engage in endeavors other than properly scientific ones. Sometimes they are engaged in lexicographic and other linguistic tasks, as is the case when they are trying to decide how to classify and categorize heavenly bodies.

    I reject the idea that “deciding how to categorize” anything in the world is “not science”. As in my previous comment, much of what science does is to develop categories that best help us understand the world, and part of that is trying to align our categories with “natural” categories, being actual features of the world. (Again, too many people see science as narrowly about empirical data; that is about half of it, the other half is about the concepts that then synthesize and understand that data; both the empirical data and the concepts are equally important halves of science.)

    Your assumption that there is some easy way of distinguishing natural kinds from other sorts is part of your problem.

    I never said it was easy. I never said that science was easy. But it is the case that science is a matter of developing concepts that best map to the natural world. Overall it is very successful through doing exactly that.

    Your simplistic separation of “the world” from the models we make of it is also tremendously problematic …

    I am presuming that there is an external material world, that this world does have characteristic “features”, and that we obtain empirical data about those features. Science then develops concepts to explain and understand those features. As part of that it develops categories that best map to the external world and thus are most useful for that task. The evidence is that science is very successful at achieving this. Scientific categories are not just arbitrary language games, they map to the real world.

    Thus, for example, when physics develops categories of particle such as “fermion” and “boson”, those are distinctions that actually exist in the real world, and we are adjusting our categories to best model that. That’s why developing and clarifying concepts is at the very heart of science.

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  20. Robin Herbert

    Hi Markk,

    Why don’t we just define “planet” according to the ideal platonic form of a planet?

    (Non-serious comment.)

    On the other hand it can be stated perfectly seriously that the redefinition of dwarf planets shows that Aristotlean essentialism is still alive and useful.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. brodix

    I’m still curious why physics has projected the model of time as a static dimension onto what is obviously a dynamic process?
    The irony here is this linear effect emerges from the narrative and linguistic models Coel insists are not properly scientific. Reality is not fundamentally linear.
    Can anyone really argue against change turning future probabilities into current actualities and eventually past residue, compared to the model based concept of block time, as a part of the “fabric of spacetime,” in which all events exist on this temporal dimension and in which we could time travel through wormholes, with the right mathematical faerie dust?
    Everyone here, Coel included, are very rational people, but no one is willing to respond, because it does open a significant can of worms, at a level which historical authority is more powerful than logic.
    Science might not be foundationalist, but society is.

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  22. SocraticGadfly

    Coel, I repeatedly support my assertions. You just refuse to accept them because you would have to admit you’re wrong. We’ve been down this road before, with your commission of logical fallacies and other things.

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  23. Daniel Kaufman

    Coel, you presume about a half dozen things that are seriously disputed, on the basis of quite serious arguments, none of which have been settled. You clearly know none of the literature on natural kinds or the scheme/content distinction and have no idea what the relevant arguments are and what it would even mean to adequately address them.

    But I also know that you have no respect for that scholarship and that as a result, you will never engage the relevant issues, but simply endeavor to win your arguments by attrition. This time is no different. I am exhausted from arguing with you ad infinitum, with no chance that the argument will ever have any effect on anything you think or say. You so thoroughly poison the water with your combination of ignorance and relentlessness that no one ever makes it until the end of the discussion but you.

    It is very different talking with synred. Despite the fact that his scientific credentials and background far outshine yours, he is a true seeker; genuinely interested in philosophy and more generally, in learning things beyond what he already knows. One never has the feeling talking with him like one is dealing with a close-minded dogmatist, whereas that’s the only sense I ever gets from talking with you. Have a good evening.

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  24. SocraticGadfly

    Oh, we’ve been down this list before on Jesus mythicism, too, where I personally have better academic credentials than the mythicists Coel cites.

    And, as for Dan, we disagree from time to time, and sometimes strongly. On Hume, he’s read more than I have, but I don’t consider myself totally uninformed. On marriage, on this thread, it’s probably in part because he’s fortunate to have come from multigenerational stable family systems, and doesn’t empirically know the pains of the other side of the coin. (Consider your personal ignorance fortunate on that done.)

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