Thursday, June 09, 2011


* John Wilkins has an interesting post at SciAm on the evolution of common sense.

* I liked this post about Turkish Delight. Really fancy lokum has dates and pistachios and the like, so I imagine would be somewhat better, although also somewhat harder to find.

* Kenny discusses Descartes's ontological argument.

* David Auerbach attempts to make sense of Diderot's view of the mind.

* Reindeer apparently can see ultraviolet.

* A movement to have Katharine of Aragon beatified.

* Mike Flynn has a good post on free will and Libet-style experiments.

* Mark T. Mitchell on The Lord of the Rings.

* Ninety jokes of Prince Philip, for his ninetieth birthday. They call them 'gaffes', but the master of 'dontopedalogy' (his coinage) is so consistent and is also so often obviously joking, that that seems a bit unfair, despite the extraordinary outrageousness of many of them. But there's also often a shrewdness to them that's just made more clear by the tactlessness. My favorite:

29. "Young people are the same as they always were. They are just as ignorant." At the 50th anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards scheme.

* Alex Pruss, Lying and Speaking Your Interlocutor's Language

* Nicholas of Cusa on natural law theory.

* Tony Woodlief asks whether the poor quality of most Christian art might not be due to bad theology rather than poor skill. But the list of faults he gives are really just failures of skill, and are easily found all the way across the board, not just in the niche of Christian art. The real question is whether good theology can make you a better artist.


* American foreign policy in a nutshell:

O-SPAN Classic: CIA Accidentally Overthrows Costa Rica


  1. Wilkins gets the EAAN dead wrong right away, and in a way that seems common. Plantinga says explicitly that the EAAN is meant to show that it's the combination of evolution with naturalism that is deeply problematic - it's not an argument against evolution itself. But somehow it's commonly treated as an anti-evolutionary argument. The suggestion that Plantinga would view rustling in the bushes as 'a mere Kantian construct' is itself a sham.

    The whole article just seems like a muddle, particularly in the habit of treating beliefs and actions as somehow equal. It's claimed that if you get things wrong, you can end up not reproducing. The problem is that you can get things right and end up not reproducing if true beliefs lead to unfit acts. Who's more fit: The guy who correctly thinks there's a leopard in the bush, and wants to give it a big ol' hug - or the guy who incorrectly thinks there's a leprechaun in the bushes, and runs like crazy because leprechauns are real annoying?

  2. branemrys2:40 PM

    Mistaking the target of the EAAN does seem a common mistake; I suspect it's because people commit the more basic error of treating evolutionary theory, broadly construed, as inherently naturalistic, and naturalism as inherently evolutionary in its approach to at least some things. Both of these are false, of course, although the latter is the more reasonable mistake these days, but people all over the philosophical map often tend to reason as if they were true.

    The second problem you mention is rather different in character, and I'm inclined to cut John a lot of slack on the point; natural selection can't distinguish capacities and acts of capacities, nor can it distinguish those acts from their immediate effects. An animal that by an amazing streak of luck managed to avoid every hazard is for the purposes of any theory of selection indistinguishable from a similar animal that avoids the same hazards by cunning. But it is worthwhile to consider how much selection might have the effect of preventing deviant capacities from becoming normal in a population, and while beliefs are not the only things relevant here, one can just as well talk beliefs (although it would be more accurate to talk about belief-structures or kinds of belief) as anything else: as far as selection goes, it's all one. What you get is at best an upper bound on what selection alone can do, for the reason you state but it certainly seems viable. I think talking about common sense as a category muddies the waters a bit, since from what we know about things like color blindness and other perceptual quirks directly affecting perceptual beliefs, different domains seem to function very differently. But this is arguably an artifact of having to summarize a complicated argument in terms that make clear its relevance to everyday things rather than any fundamental flaw.


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