Philosophers' Carnival X

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The tenth Philosophers' Carnival is up at E.G. I'm represented by Abortion and Coercion.

At Mormon Metaphysics, Clark looks at Charles Peirce's views on common sense. I know so little about Peirce that I didn't know what to expect, but I sort of like his characterization of common sense as "the set of extensively tested but vague beliefs dealing with the regular life of average folk. Common sense is still fallible of course, as are all beliefs. However the very fact they are so used and so successful means they are among the most true beliefs we hold." He then applies this to the problem of incommensurability between scientific theories by saying the vague concepts get extended and refined in a theory, but the core common sense concept is vague enough to be common to the different theories. The post also ties together Plato, Duns Scotus, and Peirce, so it's got to be worth reading for that alone.

Philosoraptor (excellent name!) regrets how philosophical discussion often goes among analytic philosophers. Instead of seeking the truth, analytic philosophers tend to get into heated debates simply because no one will back down on anything. The competitive element of getting one's points in, the glory of refuting a speaker soundly with no chance of a decent response, and the humiliation of admitting that one is wrong about something explain why this happens. I've seen it. I've also seen those who really do care more about the truth than how they look in the debate. It's a real problem, and the truth is sacrificed, but it's also not limited to analytic philosophy in any way. I suspect this is true throughout academia, as it's true throughout political debate. I do disagree on a number of points. I think there is real value in showing that a position is self-contradictory, because we then know we can't hold those positions together. Writing a philosophical paper for such a purpose is not morally problematic, and raising genuine worries about the position presented in a paper seems to me to be what philosophy is all about. Still, it's worth remember this distinction and seeking to care more about the truth than about one's perceived position in the debate.

Jonathan Ichikawa presents some nice counterexamples to David Lewis' account of truth in a fiction. Presenting counterexamples against an account of anything given by David Lewis is one of the most enjoyable philosophical activities, mostly because it's a lot harder than with most philosophers' accounts. When it's truth in fiction that you're dealing with, you can get really fun examples.

Obsidian Wings responds to what sounds like a really lame article on genetic engineering, in particular something involving using human stem cells in mouse brains. It's a pretty informative post about what's possible and what's not and why the usual alarmism about any genetic engineering that thus shows up here is just fearing the impossible. She points out the few circumstances really worth worrying about but shows why that's not what this is going to be.

In Hoc Signo Vinces explains one difference between conservatives and others (he mentions liberals and libertarians) in terms of rootedness and social connectedness. I think this really does get at a major theme in conservative thought, and I think he's right that we're worse off the more we lose this. I'm not sure that it will end up grounding some of the elements conservatives normally work into their set of views. I'm more inclined to think of it as yet another spectrum along which people might find themselves, in addition to economic libertarianism vs. socialism and social conservatism vs. social liberalism. There are probably a number of others. One reason I think this is because some liberals really do agree with Max on this and not for completely different reasons yet will hold a number of generally liberal views both economically and socially. I think David Velleman perhaps agrees in large part with what Max is saying here, for instance, but he's clearly a liberal, albeit one on the more moderate end of liberalism.

Speaking of David Velleman, he emphasizes something in this Left2Right post normally only insisted on by real conservatives and libertarians, and that's that we should err on the side of privacy over forcing equality despite differences. In this case, he's focusing on sexual orientation. He doesn't think anyone has a right to know anyone else's sexual orientation and should not be talking about someone else's sexual orientation, which should be a private matter (not that we can't have opinions but we shouldn't be violating someone's privacy by making them public or by expecting them to reveal private matters). He quotes Thomas Nagel at length in support of this. Laurence Thomas makes a similar point in his book about sexual orientation, to the effect that it's morally wrong for gays to make excessive displays of affection in public to make a political point, but it's just as morally wrong for heterosexuals to be showing their feelings for each other in such a way in public. There's a tension between this and what Max was saying, but I think there's something to both, and I suspect both David and Max would agree. It would be interesting to figure out how that would go. Also, look through the comments for David's clarification of the distinction between privacy and secrecy. I find especially insightful this excerpt from one of his comments: The point of my post is that so-called "gay rights" are not rights belonging specifically to homosexuals. They're just the rights to sexual privacy that everyone has. He also thinks it's immoral to violate your own privacy, which I find to be a fascinating and probably true claim.


Hi -- thanks for noting the chimera article. I just wanted to note that I am, in fact, female.

Sorry about that. I'm usually pretty careful about things like that. I usually have pretty strong evidence of a gender before I use a gendered pronoun. I'm not sure what happened.

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