Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Constructive vs Dismissive Objections

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It's worth distinguishing two very different ways of presenting an objection, and the two associated dialectical roles that an objection can play.(1) Constructive objections serve the role of creating a dialectical opening, posing a challenge to which the target is invited to respond.  Questions like: "How would your view deal with X?" or "How much of a problem do you think Y poses for your view?" are paradigmatically constructive objections, as I'm using the term here.  A key feature of constructive objections is that they are not presented as presumptively decisive; if anything, the opposite might be the case: the critic may well presume that their target has a good response available, and they're curious to learn what it is.(2) Dismissive objections, by contrast, aim to shut down the dialectic, demonstrating that the target view is hopeless and that no further time should be wasted discussing it.  They may typically take the form of statements rather than (genuine, non-rhetorical) questions.  By their nature, dismissive objections are presented as presumptively decisive, though of course the critic need not be dogmatic about this: while expecting that the target has no good response, they should still remain open to being surprised.With this distinction in hand, are there any interesting observations worth making about the two approaches?  Constructive objections are obviously friendlier, and more pleasant to be on the receiving end of.  So they seem especially appropriate in collegial contexts, like colloquium talks.  More than that, they seems to communicate a spirit of open-mindedness, respect, and intellectual humility that many may regard as philosophical virtues more generally.That said, I think there is a legitimate place for dismissive objections in intellectual (and especially public) discourse.  Some positions really are hopelessly misguided, after all, and it really would be better for those. . .

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News source: Philosophy, et cetera

Dr. Seuss and David Hume

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The estate of Dr. Seuss decided to pull six books from publication because the works include illustrations that “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” This was taken by some on the right as an example of “cancel culture” and it has become another battleground in the culture war manufactured by the right to distract from the numerous significant problems faced by Americans. There has been considerable speculation on the motives of the decision makers. They might have been motivated by sincere moral concerns, they might be motivated by woke marketing (sales did increase after the announcement), or they might be (as the right suggests) yielding to the threat of “cancel culture.” While questions of motives are interesting, my main concern is with the philosophical matter of re-assessing works of the past in the context of current values. This is not a new problem in philosophy and our good dead friend David Hume addressed the matter. As Hume sees it, we can and should make allowances for some differences between current and past customs. He says, “The poet’s monument more durable than brass, must fall to the ground like common brick or clay, were men to make no allowance for the continual revolutions of manners and customs, and would admit of nothing but what was suitable to the prevailing fashion. Must we throw aside the pictures of our ancestors, because of their ruffs and fardingales?” Hume is right to note that elements of past art will be out of tune with our time and that some of these differences should be tolerated as being the natural and blameless result of shifting customs—such works can and should still be enjoyed. As an example, movies made and set in the 1960s will feature different styles of clothing, different lingo, different styles of filming, and so on. But it would be unreasonable to look down upon or reject a work simply because of these differences. Hume does, however, note that a work can cross over from having blameless. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Introducing SHAPE: Q&A with Sophie Goldsworthy and Julia Black (part one)

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OUP is excited to support the newly created SHAPE initiative—Social Sciences, Humanities, and the Arts for People and the Economy. SHAPE has been coined to enable us to clearly communicate the value that these disciplines bring to not only enriching the world in which we live, but also enhancing our understanding of it. The contributions that SHAPE subjects make are more important now than ever as they can help us to navigate how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the global economy, dramatically altered our quotidian routines, and changed the way we communicate with one another, against the backdrop of climate change and urgent calls to address structural injustice.In the first instalment this two-part Q&A, we spoke to Sophie Goldsworthy, Editorial and Content Strategy Director here at OUP, and Professor Julia Black CBE FCA, Strategic Director of Innovation and Professor of Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and President-elect of the British Academy, to find out more about SHAPE and what it means to them.Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about your background and current position, and what SHAPE means to you?Sophie Goldsworthy: I’ve worked in publishing for approaching 30 years, 25 of them at OUP. My first role at the Press was on the Literature list and I currently run our humanities, social sciences, and trade programmes in the UK, as well as directing Oxford’s content strategy more broadly across the research publishing business.At a time when the content needs of the university sector are evolving, leading to shifts in research publishing, my role is about developing our focus and building data and evidence into our approach to content acquisition, more closely aligning commissioning with what librarians, researchers, and readers want, and working to maximise the reach, impact, and amplification of the scholarship we publish.Oxford is the world’s largest university press, and SHAPE subjects sit at the very heart of our. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

Texas: Working as Intended

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While the Texas storm might strike some as unusual, a similar event occurred in 2011 and scientists knew that such a severe storm could occur. While the explanations of the failures that made the disaster will include the usual foible and faults of humans, there are also ideological factors that contributed. In fact, the Texas situation provides an excellent case study of the professed ideology of Republicans/conservatives. Fairness requires pointing out the obvious: The United States has only two major parties that divide into left and right. This means that a broad range of views is packed into each party. The Democrats, for example, include AOC, Antifa folk, and Joe Biden. The Republicans, to illustrate, include Mitt Romney, Trump, and some Proud Boys. There are also distinctions between the policies of a party and the various ideologies within that party. While conservatives need not be anti-science and anti-fact, the Republican party has consciously chosen to be anti-science and anti-fact in some areas. The most relevant example is their general anti-science stance on climate change. Back in the 1980s the Democrats and Republicans generally accepted the reality of climate change and the threat it presented. This changed as the Republicans made climate change an ideological issue. This played a role in what happened in Texas: The Republicans have worked hard to deny climate change and to prevent actions to address it—thus the storm and the lack of proper preparation for it. While Republicans profess a belief in personal responsibility and condemn those who would blame others, the Republican Texas leadership rushed to put the blame on others. The governor blamed the utility companies for not being prepared for the event. To be fair, this blame is consistent with Republican ideology. Republicans profess to favor laissez faire capitalism with businesses being allowed to operate mostly as they wish. Because of this, Texas did not require the utility companies to. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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