Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Philosophers' Carnival #152

Welcome to Philosophers' Carnival #152 here at Siris! And yes, that is the correct spelling of 'Siris'. Those with a background in philosophy should recognize the allusion, but for those who don't: Siris is one of the philosophical works of George Berkeley. The name is Berkeley's anglicization of the Greek word for chain, since the work is a 'chain of reflections', and is itself an allusion to Homer: Zeus tells the other gods to hang a golden chain from the heavens, seiren chruseien ex ouranothen kremasantes, and that if all the other gods and goddesses grabbed hold of one end, they still couldn't beat Zeus at tug-of-war. The structure and theme of the work can be found handily summarized in Berkeley's poem, "On Tar"; it's important for understanding and answering the sometimes vexed question of how Berkeley's Platonism connects with his empiricism and nominalism.

In any case, clear out a portion of your schedule, because, despite the subsidence in posting that usually accompanies the end of term, we have quite a diverse selection of posts this carnival, and plentiful enough that you can certainly find something to serve as food for thought.

The July Philosophers' Carnival will be at Philosophy on Philosophy around July 10.

Invited Post

The last time Siris hosted the Philosophers' Carnival was #2, which was long, long ago in webological time. So I decided I'd do something special for this one, 150 carnivals later, and have at least one invited post on a philosophical topic of importance. So I asked Sandrine Berges of the University of Bilkent to make some comments at the Feminist History of Philosophy blog on issues relevant to feminist history of philosophy. Dr. Berges is an expert on ancient philosophy and virtue ethics, and has written on subjects ranging from the moral character of hardboiled crime fiction to Plato's conception of law to Stoic cosmopolitanism to Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Many thanks to her for an excellent discussion of how common practices impede proper appreciation of the philosophical achievements of women in history:

Sandrine Berges, Why don't women philosophers count as philosophers?, Feminist History of Philosophy

History of Philosophy

* Gregory Sadler at Orexis Dianoetike has a video talk, What Is Prohairesis?, on what Aristotle means by prohairesis, arguing that it covers more than it is usually taken to cover. A rough outline of the talk (headings are my own and merely for convenience):

0:00 Introductory Remarks
3:38 Standard Passages on Prohairesis from the Nicomachean Ethics and their Standard Interpretation: Prohairesis as Deliberative Choice
8:22 Prohairesis in Other Passages of Aristotle: Prohairesis as Including the Ordering of Values.
15:58 Reasons to Expand the Standard Interpretation: Prohairesis Seems to Go Beyond Deliberation in Some Things
19:21 Reasons to Expand the Standard Interpretation: Prohairesis Seems to Go Beyond Consideration of Means
20:55 Three Interrelated Prohairesis Concepts in Aristotle
22:05 Question and Answer Session

* Edward Feser begins regiment and examine Jon McGinnis's account of an Avicennan argument in the Najāt in Avicenna's argument from contingency, Part I at Edward Feser.

* Juan Gomez discusses Joseph Butler's method in Probable Knowledge in Butler's Analogy at Early Modern Experimental Philosophy.

* Here at Siris, in Lady Mary Shepherd on the Inverted Image Problem, I look at how Lady Mary Shepherd approached one of the early modern period's major philosophical questions about vision, considering how it relates to its historical context. Theory of vision was a major area of philosophical discussion in the early modern world, and it was often seen to be closely connected even to some very abstruse metaphysical questions.

* Daniel Lindquist at SOH-Dan discusses Rödl on Kant's First Analogy of Experience, and in particular the question of why Kant might have made the changes he did between the A and the B versions of the discussion.

* Eric Schliesser of NewAPPS discusses the possibility of reading Mary Wollstonecraft as perhaps being less deistic than Spinozistic in Wollstonecraft's Spinozism.

* Daniel Fincke at Camels with Hammers looks at 4 Kinds of Irony and Nietzsche:

There are four kinds of ironies throughout Nietzsche’s texts. The first two kinds of ironies I explicate are “formal” or “deconstructive” irony on the one hand and “historical” or “contingent” irony, on the other. These ironies stem from dialectical tensions within the natures of concepts and circumstances. When we refer to ironies, both philosophically and even ordinarily, ideally we are not simply registering our personal surprise at the unexpected but referring to something conceptually or experientially peculiar. Distinguishable from these objectively observable, “naturally occurring” ironies, are ironic modes of discourse or behavior through which someone acts, speaks, or writes in a manner that is ironic in order to highlight a formal or historical ironic peculiarity or absurdity for others.

* Paul Raymont of Philosophy, lit, etc. draws together resources on the life of May Sinclair in May Sinclair, Novelist and Philosopher. Sinclair was engaged extensively with philosophical themes in her novels, wrote books on idealism, and was the first female member of the Aristotelian society.

(Incidentally, with respect to the other female philosopher novelist mentioned by Raymont, Mary Augusta Ward, it might be worth pointing out that there is a new edition of Robert Elsmere out, annotated by the Victorianist Miriam Burstein.)

* The group blog PEA Soup has a specially relationship with the journal Ethics, and regularly hosts discussions of particular articles. The most recent such discussion was of Chike Jeffers's "The Cultural Theory of Race: Yet Another Look at Du Bois's 'The Conservation of Races" (you can find the article free online through the link in the post), on W. E. B. Du Bois. David Sobel starts the discussion off in the post, and the PEA Soupers discuss the article at length with Jeffers in the comments.

* Zachary Braiterman of jewish philosophy place discusses Hannah Arendt's Günter Gaus interviews in This Is What Thinking Looks Like.

* Tristan Haze at Sprachlogik considers Blackburn's Interpretation of Wittgenstein as a Proto-Quasi-Realist.

* Matthew David Segall of Footnotes 2 Plato, in Reflections on Deleuze's Engagement with Natural Science in D&R, considers Joe Hughes's interpretation of how Deleuze's relation to scientific ideas.

Comparative and Cross-Cultural Philosophy

* Sam Crane at The Useless Tree in Confucianism is not catching on in the US considers the question of how one adapts or transposes Confucian ideas to contemporary American context:

What can Confucianism be in the contemporary US? It cannot be what it was in pre-Qin China, and it cannot be exactly what it is in contemporary China, but can it be something still recognizable as "Confucianism" in America now? I have, up until this point, simply assumed that the answer to this question was "yes, there can be a contemporary American Confucianism." But what does that entail?

* Amod Lee at Love of All Wisdom in The appeal of the unappealing considers the question of what sort of interpretive strategy is most valuable in studying texts like the Zhuangzi (or, if one prefers, philosophers like Zhuangzi) when they seem to present strange or implausible ideas.

* A recent interview of Jay Garfield in 3:AM discussed, among other things, the lack of Buddhist philosophy in standard philosophical curricula. This discussion led to Elisa Freschi of sanscrite cogitare, sanscrite loqui in Why should philosophers study Indian philosophy? to pose the question, "What are your reasons when you explain why Sanskrit/Pāli/Tibetan/… philosophy/history/literature/linguistics… have to be part of the normal curricula?" There is some interesting discussion in the comments.

Series and Cross-Blogospheric Discussions

The usual modus operandi in a Philosopher's Carnival (or any recognition of quality in the blogosphere, such as the selection of posts for 3QuarksDaily prizes) is to select out particular posts as stand-alone entries. One problem with this, however, is that much of the actual philosophical work in the blogosphere is deliberately not stand-alone; it is often an engagement with arguments in a larger discussion or interaction. We've already seen this to some extent in a few of the posts above, which are interesting as posts, but in which the major philosophical discussion is actually in the comments as the author interacts with commenters. When one ignores the extended series (which often involve intensive discussions, both in post and in comments, on a single blog) and inter-blog discussions, both of which are often not amenable to stand-alone treatment, one overlooks quite a bit, because there are topics and approaches that tend, for whatever reason, not to be addressed in the blogosphere in a post-by-post stand-alone way, but as entries in a much larger conversation or argument.

To show this, I've relaxed some of the rules and expectations for this section and selected just a few (and very different) series and cross-blogospheric discussions that have happened recently. Some of the cross-blogospheric discussions were quite complex; in each case I have only picked out some substantive highlights.

Fraud and Ethics in Scientific Inquiry

The recent case of widely cited social psychologist Diederik Stapel, who confessed to making up data in dozens of published articles, received some discussion in the blogosphere. Those interested in the case can consult Yudhijit Bhattacharjee's article in the New York Times Magazine, which touched off much of the recent discussion. One of the closer examinations of the points raised by this article was by Janet Stenwedel at Doing Good Science. In four posts she discusses how the case relates to scientific inquiry as simultaneously and epistemological and an ethical endeavor:

(1) The quest for underlying order
(2) Failing the scientists-in-training
(3) Scientific training and the Kobayashi Maru
(4) Reluctance to act on suspicions about fellow scientists

Deborah Mayo at Error Statistics briefly discusses the relation between such frauds and verification biases in Some statistical dirty laundry.

Mathematical Proof

There has been some recent discussion among bloggers of Caroline Chen's fascinating article, The Paradox of the Proof, about Shinichi Mochizuki purported proof of the ABC Conjecture. The article raises a large number of intriguing questions about epistemology and philosophy of mathematics. Those who need a refresher on what the Conjecture is, but want more than Chen's article gives, should probably look at this post from last October at NewAPPS.

Catarina Dutilh Novaes cross-posted at M-Phi (What's Wrong with Mochizuki's 'proof' of the ABC Conjecture?) and NewAPPS (What's Wrong with Mochizuki's 'proof' of the ABC Conjecture?), suggesting that the situation could be fruitfully understood by taking a dialogical perspective on the nature of proof:

On this conception, a proof is understood as a semi-adversarial dialogue between two fictitious characters, proponent and opponent. The dialogue starts when both participants agree to grant certain statements, the premises; proponent then puts forward further statements, which she claims follow necessarily from what opponent has granted so far. Opponent’s job is to make sure that each inferential step indeed follows of necessity, and if it does not, to offer a counterexample to that particular step. The basic idea is that the concept of necessary truth-preservation is best understood in terms of the adversarial component of such dialogues: it is strategically in proponent’s interest to put forward only inferential steps that are indefeasible, i.e. which cannot be defeated by a countermove even from an ideal, omniscient opponent. In this way, a valid deductive proof corresponds to a winning strategy for proponent.

The comments sections on both posts are worth reading, because they take the discussion in different directions.

Jeffrey Ketland, also at M-Phi, in Cognitive Reductionism about Proofs, took the discussion as an occasion to consider another question concerning proof, namely, whether every proof of a mathematical claim is cognizable by some agent. Ketland argues against this cognitive reductionism thesis.

Dark Ontology

Levi Bryant at Larval Subjects posted Axioms for a Dark Ontology, which constitute a sort of manifesto for philosophical nihilism, or rather for what one begins to do, philosophically speaking, given such nihilism; he adds to it in a second post, Post-Nihilistic Praxis and Some Further Axioms. This touched off, especially in the very swiftly moving areas of the philosophical blogosphere that are concerned (one way or another) with Object Oriented Philosophy, a discussion large enough that I cannot possibly draw all the threads together here, or do more than touch on some interesting responses.

Bill Rose Thorn in a post On Levi Bryant's 'Axioms for a Dark Ontology' at BillRoseThorn looks at a number of topics suggested by Bryant's post, particularly with regard to what is involved in conceiving of the entire world when discussing nihilism and opposing positions. This post led Bryant to add some clarifications in Meaning and Purpose Again.

Dean Dettloff, of Re-Petitions, looked at the religious or counter-religious aspects of the theses in Levi Bryant's Axioms for a Dark Ontology: Wherein I Somehow Found Myself Defending Theology. Bryant responded in Further Thoughts on Dark Ontology and Religion, and Detloff responds to the response in Further Thoughts on Bryant's Further Thoughts. This further response is especially interesting:

The themes I’ve identified are the following: (1) the implications of the “death of God” in a truly Nietzschean formulation, (2) the real and present problems posed by science (especially biology and medicine), and (3) the considering of religion primarily through social-scientific and demythologized methods (as opposed to engaging with “beliefs” or rational arguments).

Matthew David Segall of Footnotes 2 Plato also discussed Bryant's posts in Reflections on nihilism as a belief system, and follows it up with Responding to Levi Bryant on the question of religion.

Terence Blake of Agent Swarm, meanwhile, criticizes the entire project, arguing that it involves taking as closed questions that simply are not closed and as demonstrative inferences that simply are not demonstrative, in Dark Subjectivity and an Apodictic Hermeneutics of Science.

Common Good and Complete Society

Michael W. Hannon's article at Public Discourse, Man the Political Animal: On the Intrinsic Goodness of Political Community, which objected to an earlier argument for limited government by Robert P. George based on the principle that "the common good of political society is fundamentally an instrumental good", touched off some discussion about the nature of common good and the application of Aristotelian principles in modern society. Hannon argued on Aristotelian grounds that political community is an intrinsic good, and that an argument for limited government has to be based on something like this position.

James Chastek, in Political common goods are of a fixed size at Just Thomism noted that when Aristotle talks about political communities he is talking about relatively small units:

For Aristotle and St. Thomas, a political society was something made of a few thousand citizens, but with the advent of the modern nation state and the extension of suffrage, a political society started to be measured in units that were larger than a polis by several orders of magnitude, at which point Aristotle says they can no longer be considered political societies. They’re just too big. One can’t scale up the polis forever and keep it as a common good, since when it becomes too big it can no longer facilitate the political life of the citizens.

Fr. Edmund Waldstein of sancrucensis argued that "participation in political rule cannot possibly be the primary common good of political community, though it might be an element of that good" in What is the Primary Intrinsic Good of a Political (or Imperial) Community?

Living with Evolution: God and Evolution

John Wilkins of Evolving Thoughts has started a series entitled "Living with Evolution" and completed the first part of it, on the subject of God and Evolution (to be followed with a series on Evolution and Morality).

(1) Introduction
(2) The problem of creation
(3) The problem of purpose A
(4) The problem of purpose B
(5) The problem of chance
(6) Is Darwinism atheism?

Levinas and Non-Human Animals

Michael S. Pearl recently had a series at The Kindly Ones on the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas and how it relates to the ethical treatment of non-human animals.

(1) The Priority of Ethics and the Relevance of Subjectivity
(2) Ethics, Attributed Subjectivity, and Noticing the Face of the Other
(3) Anthropomorphizing and Bestializing
(4) Ethical Responsibility and Non-Human Animals
(5) Levinas, Kant, Animals, and Anthropomorphisms
(6) Heidegger, Hypocrisy, and a Ruse of Rhetoric

The series will be continuing.

Additional Topics of Note

* BLS Nelson at Talking Philosophy has a post, On Warranted Deference, in which he proposes some principles for the kind of trust consistent with critical thinking.

* John G. Brungardt of John of St. Thomas critically examines Alasdair MacIntyre's discussion of lying in MacIntyre and the Truth about Lying and MacIntyre and the Truth about Lying, pt. 2.

* Richard Brown at Philosophy Sucks! has a video talk, Pain, Painfulness, and Kripke's Modal Argument. A rough outline of the talk is as follows (the headings are my own and merely for convenience):

0:00 Introductory Remarks
0:44 Kripke's Argument Against the Mind-Brain Identity Theory, and the Argument's Dependence on an Essential Connection Between Pain and Painfulness
5:01 Empirical Reasons for Thinking Pain and Painfulness Come Apart: Dental Fear Reactions
10:32 Empirical Reasons for Thinking Pain and Painfulness Come Apart: Pain Asymbolia
17:05 Implications for Kripke's Argument
21:52 Why Do People Find Intuitive the Idea that Pain Is Essentially Linked to Painfulness?
25:06 The Possibility of a Modal Argument for a Physicalist Account of the Mind
31:45 How This Modal Argument Should and Should Not Be Interpreted

* On a related topic, Clayton Littlejohn discusses a recent version of modal argument against physicalism put forward by Richard Swinburne, in Swinburne's designators and Swinburne on designators and dualism at Think Tonk.

* Martin Cooke of enigMania discusses the how paradoxes about sets relate to questions about numbers, in particular, whether numbers are really atemporal, in The Set-Theoretical Paradoxes.

* At the group blog Prosblogion, Kenny Pearce discusses different conceptions of divine omnipotence in Omnipotence and the 'Delimiter of Possibilities' View.

* Jean Kazez of In Living Color considers in The Badness of Death the question of what makes death bad for someone who dies.

* On a related topic, Benjamin Davies considers the timing puzzle for the badness of death -- when is death bad for the person who dies? -- in The Timing Puzzle at Philosopher King's.

* Avery Archer suggests a distinction between two ways in which a psychological state can provide reasons in favor of adopting a belief in Two Senses of Providing Reasons, at The Space of Reasons.

* At the n-Category Café, Bruce Bartlett has a guest post on two philosophy talks in Oxford, by David Corfield and Kobi Kremnitzer, on the relevance of homotopy type theory to philosophical questions, called Philosophy Talks in Oxford.

Again, don't forget that the July Philosophers' Carnival will be at Philosophy on Philosophy, and that you can recommend posts at the Philosophers' Carnival website.


  1. Kristofer Rhodes2:28 PM

    Hi Brandon--it looks like you're not making your email address available here, but I was hoping to ask you a question about the Philosophers' Carnival. Can you email me at Thanks!

  2. branemrys3:10 PM

    Hi, Kristofer,

    I've sent you an e-mail.


  3. Amod Lele11:58 AM

    Thanks for the link to Love of All Wisdom! I'm delighted to see cross-cultural philosophy get incorporated in the Carnival.

  4. Thank you for the mention! Besides the honour of being mentioned by you, I really appreciate the effort of dedicating a section to Comparative Philosophy.


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