Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Imagining an Alternative Pandemic Response

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I received my first shot of the Moderna vaccine yesterday -- which naturally got me thinking about how this should've been accessible much, much sooner.  I don't think anyone's particularly happy about the way that our pandemic response played out, but there's probably a fair bit of variation in what people think should've been done differently.  What alternative history of COVID-19 do you wistfully yearn after?  Here's mine (imagining that these lessons were taken on board from the start)...In early Feb 2020, with Covid declared a "global health emergency" by the WHO, American scientists prioritize preparing a low-dose "challenge strain" of the virus in case it is needed for emergency immunity research.By early March, as the seriousness of the pandemic becomes clear, the emergency research protocols are approved by the president, and hundreds of volunteers enlisted (mostly young and healthy, but also some terminal patients and elderly altruists who want to help produce a better world for their great-grandkids).A strict (but temporary) lockdown is implemented for the last two weeks of March, to buy time while the nation waits on the results of the emergency immunity research.  "Immunity passports" grant lockdown exceptions to those who have already recovered from the illness.  Those in possession of immunity passports are highly favoured for "essential work" to minimize transmission risk to others.  There are reports of occasional "pox parties" as some groups pursue immunity via uncontrolled infection, but these are widely condemned as premature and irrational with immunity research results expected any day now...Finally, the early results are revealed, with the tested vaccines proving surprisingly effective.  Deaths in the placebo group spark public outrage that high-risk individuals weren't given access to a life-saving vaccine (while scientists push back against this, writing op-eds to explain to the public the importance of. . .

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News source: Philosophy, et cetera

Lecturer Pool - Philosophy - Department of Philosophy

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University of California, Berkeley
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Lecturer Pool - Philosophy - Department of Philosophy

Job #JPF02934
- Philosophy / College of Letters & Science - Arts & Humanities / UC Berkeley

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News source: Jobs In Philosophy

The Problem of (Other) Racist Minds

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In epistemology, the problem of other minds is the challenge of proving that I know other beings have thoughts and feelings analogous to my own. One practical variation on this problem is knowing when someone is being honest: how do I know that their words match what they really believe? But the version I am concerned with here is the problem of racist minds. That is, how do I know when someone is a racist? Racism, like dishonesty, comes in degrees. Just as everyone is a bit dishonest, everyone is a bit racist. But a person should not be labeled a liar unless they are dishonest to a significant and meaningful degree. Likewise, for being a racist.  A person should not be labeled as a racist unless their racism is significant and meaningful. There is, of course, no exact boundary line that precisely defines when a person should be considered a liar or a racist. Fortunately, we can get by with imprecise standards and accept that there will be grey areas. To demand a precise line would, of course, fall into the classic line drawing fallacy. It is important to be able to distinguish racists from people who merely seem racist. One reason is that an accusation of racism can have serious consequences and such claims should not be made lightly. Another reason is that racists should be exposed for what they are—a masquerading racist can be an effective recruiter and agent for racism. I am, of course, assuming that racism is bad. As such, what is needed are reliable tests for sorting out racists from non-racists. The same need for a test arises in the classic problem of other minds. Descartes proposed a language-based test for other minds. Roughly put, if something uses true language, then it has a mind and thinks. Turing created his own variation on this test, one that is more famous than Descartes’ original test. In the case of testing for racism, it is assumed that people have minds—so that problem is bypassed (or ignored) for practical reasons. It might be wondered why. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Being and Reason: An Essay on Spinoza's Metaphysics

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2021.04.01 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Martin Lin, Being and Reason: An Essay on Spinoza's Metaphysics, Oxford University Press, 2019, 200pp., $64.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198834151. Reviewed by Yitzhak Y. Melamed, Johns Hopkins University "To try to find out the reason for everything is very dangerous and leads to nothing but disappointment and dissatisfaction." With this zesty Queen Victoria quote Martin Lin opens the final chapter of his new book on Spinoza's metaphysics. In his introduction, Lin echoes Queen Victoria's admonition, warning the reader of the vices of over-confident rationalism that fails to realize that "the world is full of the contingent and the inexplicable" (2). While mostly sharing Lin's sentiment against hubristic rationalism, I have some reservations about his confidence that the vast terrain of the unexplained is also unexplainable. But let's not jump the gun. Lin's book appears at a particularly exciting time when the study of Spinoza is flourishing and outstanding works... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

The Ethics of Vaccine Passports

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In general terms a vaccine passport is proof that a person has been immunized that allows a person access or entry that would otherwise be restricted. The use and requirements of these passports varies greatly from place to place. New York has tested an app version of a passport to allow access to professional sports games. The governors of Florida and Texas have, as one would imagine, signed executive orders banning the government from issuing them and using the coercive power of the state to forbid business from requiring them. As such, the situation is effectively chaos. While Fox News and others on the right have used hyperbole and falsehoods to make vaccine passports into a firestorm political issue, there are rational ethical concerns about such passports. While one might wonder why the right does not rationally advance such moral concerns, the easy and obvious reasons are that these generally do not match up with the espoused values of the right and most this sort of moral reasoning extremely dull when compared to the engaging and enraging power of hyperbole and outright lies. Now, to the moral issues. As noted above, New York has been testing an app version of a vaccine passport. This raises a clear moral concern about access to such passports. A person would need to have a phone capable of running such an app. While many will assume that everyone has easy access to such phones, this is not the case. There are people who prefer to use basic phones that do not run such apps and there are even people who lack phones. If the scope of concern extends beyond the United States, the matter becomes even more serious. Fortunately, there is an easy way to address this issue—physical proof of vaccination can be issued. This does lead to other problems, such as the practical matter of integrating all the various methods of proof in an effective way. But this is on par with identifying documentation from diverse sources and could be managed. But to even have a. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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