Saturday, April 07, 2007

Notes and Links

* Philosophers' Carnival 45 is up, hosted by Ainslee Hooper. My post on ad hominem fallacies is included.

* Contrary to popular belief, the living do not outnumber the dead.

* Klaas Kraay has a lovely paper entitled Can God Choose a World at Random? (PDF), looking at the randomness response to two recent objections to theism. Of course, both the IMUW-based objection and the NUW-based objection require the assumption that God's sufficient reason for choosing a world can only be completely axiological, i.e., that nothing can contribute to God's choice except what is surpassability-relevant, which is an implausible assumption to make. But a different sort of reply is to say that God does not need a sufficient reason at all, since he can choose one at random. I think Klaas's response to this is a basically right given the assumption, although he overlooks the possible response that, if God Himself is considered the randomizing device, then the reply to the claim that there is only one unsurpassable randomizer doesn't work, since that reply assumes that the randomizer is something distinct from God that is selected by Him. And it would be hard to argue that God couldn't Himself be a randomizer with someone who is already claiming that God can choose randomly.

* Glen Thompson's Christ on the Silk Road discusses scholarship on the history of Nestorian Christianity in China. Incidentally, one of the classic works on the subject, mentioned in the article, is Peter Yoshiro Saeki's 1916 The Nestorian Monument in China is available (in 1918 reprint) at Internet Archive. It's out of date, of course, but still well worth reading.

* Susan Palwick has a nice post on the Stations of Complacency that stand over against the Stations of the Cross.

* Edward T. Oakes muses on René Girard.

* Something I learned about Hume yesterday that I did not previously know: Hume's famous 'Reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions' (in Treatise 2.3.3) is, astoundingly, an allusion to Cicero. Cicero certainly doesn't have such a view, but is associated with the phrase by Bayle (in Note H of the Ovid article) in an argument against Stoicism. Bayle accuses the Stoics of ignoring the human condition, and quotes a passage from Cicero preserved by Augustine in order to illustrate the point. The point he is making is that the Stoics are unusual in antiquity in attributing so much power to reason. Hume, always a fan of Cicero, would no doubt have read the passage with particular interest. The recognition of this illuminates Hume's whole argument in that section. This is exactly why doing history of philosophy is a splendid endeavor. Bayle is someone I keep intending to read more closely (rather than just dipping in occasionally for reference), but haven't managed to do so yet; this is one more reason to get on with it. The Dictionnaire Historique et Critique is online.

* In San Francisco I managed to attend several papers. It confirms my view that the primary difference between attending the APA and attending any other conference is the cost. Far and away the best that I attended was Kate Abramson's paper on a (broadly) Smithian account of moral contempt in the Adam Smith session; it was very thought-provoking. I attended a Descartes session (bearable) and the Hume Society Session (enjoyable). I also dropped in on the Epistemic Value session; it was good to be reminded of how utterly boring analytic epistemologists are able to make otherwise interesting subjects. That's a bit harsh; there were bits and pieces that I enjoyed, but I had the experience a sane individual must feel who, having thoroughly enjoyed the early trilogy, nonetheless finds himself in a room filled with Star Wars geeks arguing about the details of Boba Fett's weaponry.


* Whatever you may think of Alanis Morissette, she is at least a little bit awesome when it comes to mocking things that deserve it while also making a serious point about a serious absurdity in our contemporary culture. (This is what she's parodying.)