Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Input Sought on New Questions for Upcoming PhilPapers Survey of Philosophers

A draft of the follow-up to the 2009 Philpapers survey of philosophical positions held by academic philosophers on various topics includes about 70 new questions. The survey’s creators, David Bourget (Western University) and David Chalmers (NYU), are seeking input from members of the profession about the new questions. (Previously.) The new survey will include the original 30 questions, plus 10 new ones that will be asked of all respondents, and 60 new ones that will each be asked of 25% of the respondents. So each respondent will be asked to answer around 55 questions. They will also be given the option to answer more, up to the total of around 100 questions. Here are the original 30 questions: A priori knowledge: yes or no? Abstract objects: Platonism or nominalism? Aesthetic value: objective or subjective? Analytic-synthetic distinction: yes or no? Epistemic justification: internalism or externalism? External world: idealism, skepticism, or non-skeptical realism? Free will: compatibilism, libertarianism, or no free will? God: theism or atheism? Knowledge: empiricism or rationalism? Knowledge claims: contextualism, relativism, or invariantism? Laws of nature: Humean or non-Humean? Logic: classical or non-classical? Mental content: internalism or externalism? Meta-ethics: moral realism or moral anti-realism? Metaphilosophy: naturalism or non-naturalism? Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism? Moral judgment: cognitivism or non-cognitivism? Moral motivation: internalism [More]

Philosophers’ Pick-Up Lines

“I didn’t know that angels could fly so low. Or that angels even existed anymore now that God is dead… amiright???” That’s Nietzsche’s pick-up line, as imagined by Dan Caprera in a recent post at McSweeney’s. His other “famous philosopher’s pick-up lines” include: René Descartes: “I would rearrange the stars for you, babe… And, technically-speaking, it is NOT IMPOSSIBLE for me to rearrange the stars, because everything that is external to me is subject to skepticism and, as such, the only thing I can truly be certain of is my own, rational existence.” Jeremy Bentham: “Wanna maximize each other’s overall happiness, babe?” And of course: Immanuel Kant: “If loving you is wrong, babe… then I have a moral duty not to love you because loving you is an ethical decision that cannot be universalized.” …among others. One gets the sense that lines like these may have been what Manet had in mind when he painted this poor bartender: Nonetheless, I suspect some readers might be particularly good at coming up with additions to this list. Of course we needn’t be limited to the great historical philosophers everyone has heard of, so we have more to work with (just don’t be mean to the living, please). Here are a few from me: T.M. Scanlon: “No one could reasonably reject you.” G.E.M. Anscombe: “Them? They’re all idiots. I’m the only one who knows how you think. Let’s get out of here.” Edmund [More]

“Academic Philosophy Is Ruining Our Marriage”, Non-Hegel Versions

By now many readers will have seen the Reddit post written by a physicist seeking advice about what to do about her Hegel-obsessed philosopher-of-science husband. It was posted in the Heap of Links the other day, and all over social media—to the extent that “Hegel” was trending on Twitter. The post begins: My husband and I are both academics. We’ve been married for 3 years, and been together for 6. He is an academic philosopher and I am a physicist. He has recently expressed displeasure that I’ve never seriously engaged with his work. Now, I’ve read a bit… Unfortunately, everything he’s shown me has just seems completely insane. Here’s the problem: his work apparently involves claims about physics that are just wrong, and wrong in a very embarrassing way! She details some of those claims, points out various problems, and claims his pre-occupation with Hegel “has reached the point of creepiness,” noting that “he keeps a framed picture of Hegel on the nightstand in our bedroom.” The problem grows and culminates in a fight: Recently we got in a huge fight because he was trying to demonstrate an example of the Hegelian concept of the “unity of opposites” (whatever that means) by claiming that right and left hands are opposite but also identical. I told him this is just wrong and that right and left hands are not “identical” in any meaningful sense (chirality is a basic concept [More]

Two Philosophers Make British Academy Book Award Shortlist

The British Academy, the UK’s national organization for the humanities and social sciences has released the shortlist of candidates for its 2019 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding. The £25,000 ($30,900) annual prize, established seven years ago, “rewards and celebrates the best works of non-fiction that have contributed to global cultural understanding and illuminate the interconnections and divisions that shape cultural identity worldwide,” according to an announcement from the British Academy. Six books made the shortlist, including two by philosophers: The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity (Profile Books) by Kwame Anthony Appiah  How the World Thinks: A Global History of Philosophy (Granta Books) by Julian Baggini The other books on the list are: A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution (Allen Lane) by Toby Green Maoism: A Global History (Bodley Head) by Julia Lovell Remnants of Partition: 21 Objects from a Continent Divided (Hurst) by Aanchal Malhotra Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture (Verso) by Ed Morales There were originally 80 books under consideration for the prize. The president of the British Academy, Sir David Cannadine, says of the shortlisted books: Such rigorous, timely and original non-fiction writing provides the rich context the global community needs to discuss and debate present-day challenges. Each of the writers nominated for this year’s [More]

Sexual Harassment in Philosophy, Part 2 (guest post by Janice Dowell and David Sobel)

The following is a guest post* by Janice Dowell and David Sobel, professors of philosophy at Syracuse University, with help from several other philosophers. It is the second in a two-part series on sexual harassment in philosophy. Part 1 is here. Like the first installment, this one was also published at PEA Soup. Professors Dowell and Sobel have included some prefatory remarks for this post: Below is the second installment in our two-part series on sexual harassment in academia. In this installment, we discuss proposals for what individual philosophers and departments can do to prevent harassment and support victims. Some of these proposals will likely be controversial. The ongoing discussion of this topic is important; we hope people will carefully consider our proposals and the rationale offered for them. And while proposals for change frequently come with the risk of creating new problems, we hope people keep in mind that the status quo has very serious costs. Before those who disagree publicly express their dissent, I very much hope they will keep two considerations in mind:  (i) Whether the proposals advocated by the signatories to the statement below are warranted depends very much on what’s known about the rates of harassment and retaliation in academia and their impact on victims. Anyone who is unfamiliar with these facts will find it difficult to reasonably assess these proposals. So, we hope that anyone not yet familiar with the empirical data will first [More]

Philosophers Win ERC Starting Grants

The European Research Council (ERC) has announced the winners of its latest round of “starting grants,” and among them are several philosophers. They are: Rafał Banka, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, for Mereological Reconstruction of the Metaphysical System in the Daodejing (€229,500 / $252,600) Jonathan Birch, London School of Economics and Political Science, for Foundations of Animal Sentience (€1,500,000 / $1,652,000) Jason Konek, University of Bristol, for Epistemic Utility for Imprecise Probability (€1,490,433 / $1,641,000) David Ludwig, Wageningen University, for Local Ecologies of Knowledge: Towards a Philosophy of Ethnobiology (€1,500,000 / $1,652,000) Rik Peels, Free University of Amsterdam and Medical Centre, for The Epistemology and Ethics of Fundamentalism (details forthcoming) Hanno Sauer, Utrecht University, for The Enemy of the Good: Towards a Theory of Moral Progress (€1,500,000 / $1,652,000) The starting grants program aims to “help individual scientists and scholars to build their own teams and conduct pioneering research across all disciplines.” There’s more information, including links to lists of all of the grant winners, here. The post Philosophers Win ERC Starting Grants appeared first on Daily [More]

Sexual Harassment in Philosophy (guest post by Janice Dowell and David Sobel)

The following is a guest post* by Janice Dowell and David Sobel, professors of philosophy at Syracuse University. It is also posted at PEA Soup. Sexual Harassment in Philosophy by Janice Dowell and David Sobel Our aim in this short post is to provide a brief summary of the general picture of sexual harassment as it applies to the academic community and to philosophy in particular. In a follow-up post, we will offer a number of proposals for how departments and individuals can act to fight harassment and support victims. Some of those proposals will no doubt seem controversial to some. Understanding why those proposals are warranted will require first understanding the extent and repercussions of harassment. We need to understand that we as philosophers and teachers operate in a world in which sexual harassment is not rare. This recognition should be reflected in our practice, and two points are especially important. First, philosophers are well aware both of the multiple ways in which language communicates information and of the effects of language that extend beyond communication. So, we should be particularly alive to such considerations in the language we use for teaching and discussing philosophy. When we casually and unnecessarily offer examples involving rape, sexual harassment, or false accusations of either, we should be aware of how probable it is that some audience members, readers, or fellow discussants will have been sexually harassed or assaulted and [More]

Philosophers Among NEH Grant Winners

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has announced the winners of its latest round of grants.  Among the winners are several philosophy professors. They’re listed below, along with their project titles and descriptions, grant amounts, and grant types: Jose Bermudez (Texas A & M University) and Catherine Conybeare (Bryn Mawr College) Reconsidering the Sources of the Self in the Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern Periods A conference and preparation of an edited volume of essays on the influential Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity by philosopher Charles Taylor (1931–).  $48,961 (Collaborative Research) Richard Cohen (University at Buffalo) Emmanuel Levinas: Ethics of Democracy A One-week seminar for 16 college and university faculty on Levinas and democracy. $63,789 (Seminars for College Teachers) Angela Coventry (Portland State University) David Hume in the Twenty-first Century: Perpetuating the Enlightenment A four-week institute for 30 college and university faculty on the Scottish thinker David Hume. $185,975 (Institutes for College and University Teachers) Karen Detlefsen (University of Pennsylvania) and Lisa Shapiro (Simon Fraser University) New Narratives in the History of Philosophy: Women and Early Modern European Philosophy A conference on the works of early modern women philosophers (1500 to 1850) in preparation for an edited volume of essays. $50,000 (Collaborative Research) Also funded is an education researcher’s [More]

Political Hostility and Willingness to Discriminate in Philosophy

A new study of nearly 800 academic philosophers provides support for several claims about their political views, perceptions of politics-based hostility, and willingness to engage in politics-based discrimination. The study, “Ideological Diversity, Hostility, and Discrimination in Philosophy“, by Uwe Peters (KU Leuven), Nathan Honeycutt (Rutgers), Andreas De Block (KU Leuven), and Lee Jussim (Rutgers), is forthcoming in Philosophical Psychology. Their findings include the following: “Philosophers are predominantly left leaning” 74.8% of philosophers are left-leaning, 14.2% were right-leaning, 11% were moderates. Analytic philosophers in general identified as slightly less left-leaning than continental philosophers. Additionally, “participants also perceived their colleagues as primarily left-leaning” and “viewed them as more left-leaning than themselves” “The more right-leaning the participant, the more hostility they reported personally experiencing from colleagues, and, overall, the more left-leaning the participant, the less hostility they reported personally experiencing.” “Participants also perceived right-leaning individuals in the field… to experience more hostility than left-leaning subjects.” “Participants reported that they would be more reluctant to defend their own argument if it led to a right-leaning conclusion… than if it led to a left-leaning one” “There was [More]

Philosophers Win Several Large Grants in the Netherlands

Several philosophers are among the winners of large grants from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). They are: Reinhard Muskens (UvA) for “A Sentence Uttered Makes a World Appear” (€770,850 / $860,000) Hearing a sentence enables one to make a mental picture of its content. ‘The cat is on the mat’ is a sequence of words first and then an image. But how does that work? Our research uses logic and computation to answer this question. Robert van Rooij (UvA) for “Why We Believe Sharks Are Dangerous” We accept generic sentences like ‘Sharks are dangerous’, although sharks only seldomly attack us. It is important to understand why, because stereotypes are also expressed by such generic sentences. We  want to investigate whether the acceptance of such generalizing sentences can be explained by the way  expectations are learned. Han van Ruler (EUR) for “Decoding Descartes” Decoding Descartes unravels the ideas of the founder of modern philosophy and science René Descartes (1596–1650) in response to contemporary deadlocks in philosophy, psychology and neuroscience. By reevaluating Descartes’ work and correspondence, the project shows Descartes is still decisively relevant for contemporary debates in multiple disciplines from humanities to neuroscience. Maartje Schermer (EUR) for “Health and disease as practical concepts: a pragmatist approach to conceptualization of health and disease” Scientific, [More]

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