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Myles Burnyeat (1939-2019)

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Miles Burnyeat, emeritus fellow at Oxford University’s All Souls College and emeritus professor of philosophy at Cambridge University’s Robinson College, has died.   Professor Burnyeat was well-known for his work in ancient philosophy. In a speech honoring him in 2012, Sarah Broadie (St. Andrews) said: In classical studies, especially in the study of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, Myles Burnyeat’s name is a byword for extraordinary humanistic achievement. Students of ancient thought at every level and in many countries are beholden to his example, in teaching as in research. His expertise ranges wide and deep over material stretching from the pre-Socratic philosophers, to the great classical and Hellenistic figures, and on through a vast cavalcade of successors into late antiquity. Our grasp and appreciation of just about every shape and movement of thought in this thousand year sweep of philosophy has been informed, invigorated, and in some cases seriously corrected by Myles Burnyeat’s work. Professor Burnyeat was an undergraduate at Cambridge University and a graduate student at University College London (under the supervision of Bernard Williams). His first teaching appointment was at UCL, in 1964. In 1978 he took up an appointment at Cambridge, and then in 1996 he became a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He is the author of many works, including The Theaetetus of Plato, A Map of Metaphysics Zeta, Aristotle’s Divine Intellect, and The Original Sceptics: A Controversy (co-authored with Michael Frede), among others. A good number of his papers are collected in the two–volume Explorations in Ancient and Modern Philosophy. In a review of the latter, Rachel Barney wrote: Burnyeat moves effortlessly from minute questions of philological detail… to large-scale philosophical argument; from rigorous textual analysis to comparisons with Wittgenstein, Gassendi or Hume. These forces are mustered with sweep and panache: there is real. . .

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News source: Daily Nous

Hurricanes & Pharmaceutical Prices

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Image Credit While the Democrats and President Trump have expressed support for reducing the cost of pharmaceuticals, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that he will oppose efforts to impose price controls, saying that “Socialist price controls will do a lot of left-wing damage to the healthcare system.” This does not, of course, entail that McConnel would oppose all efforts to reduce the cost of drugs, but it does seem to express a general opposition to the state engaging in efforts to control prices. This view is typically defended on free market grounds: the market should set the prices for products rather than the state. The stock moral argument, going back to the beginning of capitalism, is that everyone will be better off this way. One obvious problem with defending drug pricing on free market grounds is that the pharmaceutical industry is largely based on the state enforcing drug patents—that is, the state uses its coercive power to ensure that the market is restricted rather than free. While it is reasonable to debate what regulations, if any, should exist the fact that this sort of regulation is accepted does open the door to additional regulation. To use an analogy, if someone says that they will oppose all efforts for their family to have a pet on the grounds of the principle of the pet-free house and yet they already have a dog, then the door would thus seem to be open to more pets. After all, the principle has already been violated. This does not preclude debating about whether to get another pet but justifying not getting another pet by appealing to the no-pet policy would be absurd. As such, the free-market argument is rather problematic—unless companies are willing to fully embrace the free market. This does not provide a positive argument for price control, at best it takes away an argument against it. I now turn to an argument for price control of certain drugs. My adopted state of Florida is routinely ravaged by. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Should we create artificial moral agents? A Critical Analysis

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I recently encountered an interesting argument. It was given in the midst of one of those never-ending Twitter debates about the ethics of AI and robotics. I won’t say who made the argument (to be honest, I can’t remember) but the gist of it was that we shouldn’t create robots with ethical decision-making capacity. I found this intriguing because, on the face of it, it sounds like a near-impossible demand. My intuitive reaction was that any robot embedded in a social context, with a minimal degree of autonomous agency, would have to have some ethical decision-making capacity.Twitter is not the best forum for debating these ideas. Neither the original argument nor my intuitive reaction to it was worked out in any great detail. But it got me thinking. I knew there was a growing literature on both the possibility and desirability of creating ethical robots (or ‘artificial moral agents’ - AMAs - as some people call them). So I decided to read around a bit. My reading eventually led me to an article by Amanda Sharkey called ‘Can we program or train robots to be good?’, which provided the inspiration for the remainder of what you are about to read.Let me start by saying that this is a good article. In it, Sharkey presents an informative and detailed review of the existing literature on AMAs. If you want to get up to speed on the current thinking, I highly recommend it. But it doesn’t end there. Sharkey also defends her own views about the possibility and desirability of creating an AMA. In short, she argues that it is probably not possible and definitely not desirable. One of the chief virtues of Sharkey’s argumentative approach is that it focuses on existing work in robotics and not so much on speculative future technologies.In what follows I want to critically analyse Sharkey’s main claims. I do so because, although I agree with some of what she has to say, I find that I am still fond of my intuitive reaction to the Twitter argument. As an exercise in self-education, I. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

The State of Contemporary Metaphysics

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“I think metaphysics is what it’s always been—and it’s hard to say what that is!” That’s Ross Cameron, professor of philosophy at the University of Virginia, answering a question from interviewer Richard Marshall about the state and content of metaphysics these days. [Lisa Ericson, “Migration”]He continues: I think it’s in a pretty good state: we’ve emerged from the darkness of logical positivism, ordinary language philosophy, and conceptual analysis, and are once again unapologetically trying to say something about reality! I suppose one thing that might surprise someone coming from near pre-Lewis/Kripke times is the variety of phenomena that are taken to be legitimate subjects of metaphysical theorizing. (Although it wouldn’t be at all surprising to someone from farther back in the history of philosophy.) People still do the metaphysics of time, possibility, existence, etc., but also the metaphysics of race, gender, disability, social groups, sexuality, etc. One sociological change is that it’s become absolutely standard to see these topics in metaphysics textbooks, being taught to undergraduates, being presented at mainstream metaphysics conferences, etc. I think that’s a very good thing. In the interview, Professor Cameron explains his views on a number of topics in contemporary metaphysics, including philosophy of time, grounding, mereology, and vagueness. His remarks are interesting and informative throughout. For example, in his answer to a question about grounding, he brings up the roles of the empirical and the useful in addressing metaphysical questions. He says: Grounding is real. What it is is another issue. Whether there’s a single notion of grounding, as Jonathan Schaffer thinks, or whether there are a multitude of different grounding relations, as Jessica Wilson thinks, is a difficult issue—but that there is some phenomenon whereby some features of reality give rise to others is hard to deny. Universities do. . .

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News source: Daily Nous

Mike’s Free Encounter #12: Shadowed Fields

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Mike’s Free Encounter #12: Shadowed Fields is now available. For free. This is the 12th in an ongoing series aimed to provide the overworked DM with ready-to run encounters. The PCs face off against the Order of Salvation—Necroknights in the service of Durakor. CR 5+ The encounter includes: History/Background for the encounter.Encounter guide.New Monsters: Necroknight, Necroknight Captain, Necropriest, Necromancer, and Zombie Warhorse.New Magic Item: Bone Flail.Color Maps The companion ZIP file contains: JPEG and Campaign Cartographer versions of the maps (with and without grid).Hero Lab file for the encounter.Word file of the encounter.PDF of the character sheets for all the monsters. https://www.dmsguild.com/product/289271/Mikes-Free-Encounter-12-Shadowed-Fields

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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