Welcome to the 111th Philosophers' Carnival. For more information on the Philosophers' Carnival, please see here. Most hosts just present the posts neutrally, but sometimes they comment on them. I'm going to take the latter course this time around, although in some cases I'll have more to say than in others. I've extended a little grace and included posts outside the three-week range for this carnival if they otherwise met the criteria for inclusion and if the date wasn't too far back (the submitted post from May will not be appearing).
Andrew Bernardin presents Give That Fern an Abacus at 360 Degree Skeptic. Andrew has found a nice example of the extremes of the dilution of mental state language. If plants can engage in strategies to pursue their goals, then something's gone truly wrong. There's a difference of opinion within evolutionary theory whether to speak like Aristotle, as if evolution has purposes that things tend toward (i.e. survival and reproduction) or the Epicurean approach that all such talk is mere metaphor, and there are no goals or purposes in nature. (There's also, I suppose, Thomas Aquinas' approach, which agrees with Aristotle that the natural teleology is present but also with the Epicureans that you can't get away with such talk without God. He rightly concluded that such a combination of views implies the existence of God, and thus we have the Fifth Way argument.)
But it's a stretch even for Aristotelians to think trees themselves are strategizing about how they should behave to maximize nutrient absorption. That sounds even stranger than when a functionalist once told me that his view rightly implies that sports teams have beliefs, and he didn't mean that they all shared a belief in common. He meant that the team itself believed things in addition to any beliefs of the players. But at least teams are composed of people who have beliefs. Trees? That's even worse than saying that lions do certain things in order to maximize their chances of reproduction, as if lions really have an obsession with having lots of offspring.Gualtiero Piccinini gives us Connectionism Need Not Be (Strongly) Associationistic at Brains. Connectionist models of cognition may involve associationism, but other explanatory models are compatible with connectionism.
C. Bosco offers Justice of a Prisoner at Hammers of Flight. C. Bosco's argument is that Socrates was inadvertently serving the end of injustice by giving in to an unjust capital sentence. If Socrates argued that a more just outcome is obtained by going along with the laws even when they're unjust, then his argument is subject to failure when going along with the laws actually leads to a more unjust outcome through supporting an unjust system.
This criticism is strong if (1) Socrates' argument is intended to be consequentialist and (2) furthering the unjust system really does lead to a worse outcome than running away and thus undermining the laws. I have nothing to say about (2), but I'm not sure (1) is correct. Socrates' two main arguments, as I see it, are backward-looking and thus deontological. You ought to follow the law because you consented to it by participating and benefiting, and it's hypocritical to go along with it when it benefits you but not when it harms you. Furthermore, you have obligations to your parents because of how they raised you, and similarly you have obligations to the laws for protecting you and educating you all your life. So to go back on the laws now would violate the strong duty of gratitude that you owe them.
I'm not sure if Socrates was a Kantian absolutist. Perhaps certain consequences would be so great that they would outweigh deontological principles. If Republic book I is accurate to Socrates' own views, then he does have room for that, e.g. the case of returning borrowed weapons to a person intent on murdering someone. But does Socrates' going along with his death contribute so much to the perpetuation of injustice on an ongoing basis as to override strong deontological obligations? For Bosco's argument to succeed, the answer would have to be yes.
Joseph A Pinkley presents The Evil of Extreme Individualism at Critiquing Humanity. Joseph distinguishes between individuality, which he sees as a perfectly healthy and good genetic imperative, and individualism, which he sees as one of the chief sources of evil. The main argument seems to be that people do all sorts of bad things out of too much of a focus on self-interest I'd have to see more to have a sense of where I'd agree or disagree, but I can tell from the pictures used that I'd disagree quite strongly on particular assignations of blame.
I'm not sure how the cross, a symbol of complete self-sacrifice on behalf of others, can count as Dangerous in this way. Any Christian will admit that it's dangerous, in the same way that Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia is dangerous despite being good. But dangerous because it's inividualist? I can't see that. Christianity that starts with the cross is pretty anti-individualist. Also, I'm sure I'd disagree with Joseph's political assumptions given his choice of the elephant and omission of the donkey as More Dangerous. I'm sure a huge part of the disagreement would be with his assumptions about the basis of the more considered conservative views, given that he thinks the Republican party is self-interested in a More Dangerous way. The reality is that both major American parties are individualist in different ways, on different kinds of issues, and I'd say sometimes for good and sometimes for ill. Wall Street I'll go along with, however. New York City driving is Most Dangerous, and I believe Wall Street is right in the middle of the business district, a pretty busy section of town.
Philosophy of Religion
My post this week is Age of Accountability posted at Parableman. Some religious traditions assume a doctrine of an age of accountability, which leads to problems similar to those raised in Ted Sider's "Hell and Vagueness", at least if you hold to a few other commonly-held assumptions (except that this time I think the argument succeeds, whereas I don't think Ted's does). I agree with this post more than any of the others in this carnival, or at least I did when I wrote it. If you want a full sense of the discussions on this one, you should check out the cross-postings on other blogs I contribute toward, which are linked at the bottom.
Political PhilosophyNandini Ramachandran presents Library Daze posted at ChaosBogey. It takes awhile to get going, but eventually it's a review of Joseph Raz's The Morality of Freedom. Raz argues that a value-neutral government is impossible and that the best approach is to ensure freedom in the form of individual autonomy is not by having a limited government but by having government actively take steps to put individuals in positions where they can make reasoned choices. Nandini sees some of this enforced autonomy as enforced conformity and thinks it interferes with freedom a lot more than a more limited government would. One basic difference of opinion is that Raz doesn't seem to have room for allowing people to be evil, but Nandini thinks we should. All I have to say is that this seems to be an interesting case where the rightward movement is more tolerant than the leftward movement. That isn't always the way it is, but I think when it is that way it's too often not noticed.
Jason Streitfeld sends in Getting Past Gettier posted at Specter of Reason. Jason points out an interesting feature of Gettier cases. Smith hears that Jones will get a job rather than Smith and knows that Jones has ten coins in his pocket. Smith concludes that the man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket. But he is wrong about who will get the job, since he will, and he also happens to have ten coins in his pocket. Gettier said Smith had a true, justified belief that the man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket. Jason says the belief is in fact false, since Smith's belief is about Jones, not about himself.
Jason says the editor who reviewed his paper says he needs to take into account the de re and de dicto distinction, and I agree. Smith believes of the person who will not get the job that he has ten coins. He doesn't believe that of the person who will get the job. Those are de re beliefs. He does, however, have a true de dicto belief -- that the person who will get the job (whom he happens to have a false belief about de re) has ten coins in his pocket. It's the de dicto belief that Gettier says is the true one, not the de re ones that Jason says are false. So I think Jason's argument needs to be that there is no such belief as the de dicto one. I think that's where he wants to go, anyway. If I wanted to resist Gettier, I'd question whether the beliefs are justified, not whether they're true, but I found this an interesting tactic if he can pull off what is in effect his claim, which is that the sort of de dicto belief Gettier is dealing with isn't a real belief that we have in such circumstances.We have several submissions related to Keith DeRose's bank cases arguing for contextualism. The original bank case is that if you need your check deposited on Saturday, then the stakes are much higher than if you can wait until Monday. Whether you know the bank is open on Saturdays depends on how high the stakes are. In the former case, knowing that it was open last Saturday is not sufficient given the higher stakes, but it is sufficient given the lower stakes.
James gives us On the Wealth of Nations, #1 at Moral Fideism. . Starting with a quote from Adam Smith about the good of sub-dividing philosophy into sub-fields for the specialization of experts, Jongsuh argues that, since it's worth there being some generalists in philosophy, who seek to understand the discipline as a unity, it thereby has a unity of a certain sort, that the specialist can't improve upon over the generalist.
I have two questions about this argument. Does it follow from its being a unity worth pursuing as a unity that specialists can't add anything to the generalist? The point of specialization is to divide tasks. Someone can learn a lot more about logic by focusing on logicians' work, and someone else can learn a lot more about metaphysics by focusing mostly on metaphysicians' work. When they get together, they know a lot more together and can communicate about how the logical work is relevant to the metaphysical work, for example. Isn't that an improvement over both philosophers trying to learn about every sub-field but not learning much about each?
I'm also unsure about the inference from someone's specialization in a sub-field to the conclusion that the person isn't pursuing a general knowledge of philosophy. I'm a generalist in many ways. I care about virtually every sub-field. There are figures I don't like and entire strains of philosophy that some people specialize in that I'm not interested in, mostly because I think their methods are dead-ends, their writing is incomprehensible, or the particular issues in question seem less important or interesting to me than some other issue that I'm more focused on. But I have an interest in every major branch of philosophy to some degree, I'd like my views to fit together across those sub-fields, and I can imagine myself at some point coming up with papers worth publishing across the spectrum of philosophical thought.
Nevertheless, my primary training is in analytic metaphysics and philosophy of religion, and my dissertation is in the philosophy of race. I'm a specialist in those three areas. Yet I've also done some specialization in my teaching in ancient, medieval (especially Augustine and Aquinas), early modern, and ethics in addition to my other specializations. I'm playing catch-up now with philosophy of biology for a chapter in my dissertation that relies heavily on natural kinds and species classification. The metaphysics of social kinds has required some familiarity with philosophy of social science and some of the loosely-classified socio-political philosophy that goes along with philosophy of race, and the ethical issues with race have come up and have been part of my teaching. So I'm a specialist who is heavily invested in a wide swath of philosophical issue, and thus I'm pursuing a generalist course despite my specialization.