Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

The Unbearable Lightness of Blogging: How to Save Your Posts from Catastrophe.

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   Sumerian clay tablet with the text of the poem Inanna and Ebih by the priestess Enheduanna, Writing in cuneiform characters on clay tablets is a little laborious, but it ensures that your text is not vulnerable to accidental erasure: these tablets have survived for more than 5000 years. It is hard to think that the posts of our blogs will survive for so long. But, at least, we should try to protect them from accidental loss or direct attacks. Image from Wikipedia.  I don't know if it ever happened to you, but a few days ago I lost two post drafts in a row, the same day. Then I discovered something that I should have known: that Google's Blogger gives you zero chances to recover your text when you erase it by mistake. No way, impossible, I could have thrown those drafts into a black hole. No tragedy, but a few hours of work wasted. And that set my mind in motion: why is it that Google, the world's most powerful Internet company, can't provide even a minimal file recovery facility in their blogging platform? Call me paranoid, but I think they had something in mind when they structured Blogger the way it is. That is, prone to data loss. Just think of a few characteristics of the shiny new version of Blogger: there is no way to make an automatic backup. There is no trash can from which you can recover erased data. There is no way to disable the automatic saving that operates every two seconds or so, and that virtually guarantees that any mistake you make can't be reversed. I can't believe that these are bugs: they have to be features.Google is not the only Internet company to be evil. You know how things are with Facebook, which you can see as a form of "micro-blogging." Since their service is free, you can't complain if they decide to erase one of your posts just because they don't like it. And they do that all the time. Of course it is not politically correct to use the term "censorship." They do that all in the name of fighting. . .

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

Arguing: Good and Bad Faith

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Philosophical argumentation aims at establishing the truth of a claim.  The goal of persuasion is to get the audience to believe a claim whether it is true or false. Philosophical argumentation requires that one argue in good faith; persuasion does not. This is not to say that persuasive techniques are forbidden when arguing philosophically. You can and should use persuasive techniques to make your arguments more interesting, but you should not use them as substitutes for arguments. Arguing in good faith is not the same thing as making a good argument: a person could make a terrible argument or use false premises in good faith. This is because arguing in good or bad faith is primarily a matter of intention. That said, arguments made in bad faith will tend to be bad arguments. To use an analogy, a person can prepare a turkey in good faith with the intention of making it safe and delicious. But the turkey could turn out badly or could even give the guests food poisoning. Preparing food in bad faith, to continue the analogy, would aim at deceiving guests about what they are really eating or even aim at intentionally poisoning them. As the analogy suggests, just as you would want to avoid bad faith cooks you would want to avoid those who argue in bad faith. They will not be serving up anything you should consume. When a person argues in good faith, they intend to argue that a claim is true by using good logic and true (or at least plausible) evidence and reasons. Arguing in good faith does not require that a person believe the claim they are arguing for, but they do need to be honest about this. A person can advance an argument they disagree with as part of a good faith discussion. For example, philosophical argumentation often includes considering objections against one’s position and these objections can (and should) be made in good faith. As another example, when a philosophy presents the views of a philosopher they disagree with, they should present the arguments. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Collective Intentionality

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[Revised entry by David P. Schweikard and Hans Bernhard Schmid on December 9, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Collective intentionality is the power of minds to be jointly directed at objects, matters of fact, states of affairs, goals, or values. Collective intentionality comes in a variety of modes, including shared intention, joint attention, shared belief, collective acceptance, and collective emotion. Collective intentional attitudes permeate our everyday lives, for instance when two or more agents look after or raise a child, grieve the loss of a loved one, campaign for a political party, or cheer for a sports team. They are relevant for...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The Conspiracy Paradox: Election Fraud Edition

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Trump and his supporters continue to claim that Biden won because of widespread election fraud. While Sidney Powell wove an international conspiracy too crazy even for Rudy Giuliana, some of Trump supporters have embraced this theory. Another conspiracy theory claims, falsely, that the US seized election servers in Germany in an armed raid. The pardoned (by Trump) criminal Michael Flynn has called on Trump to suspend the Constitution and impose martial law in order to re-do the election. Officials in Georgia are now receiving death threats for accepting the election results and when a fellow Republican pleaded with Trump to address this, Trump doubled down on his conspiracy theory. As such, the conspiracy theories are still going strong (despite being empty shells). At this point, the various conspiracy theories seem to be claiming that all election officials in areas won by Biden were involved in the alleged fraud. It must be noted that these include Republican election officials who supervised elections in which down-ballot Republicans often won. As always, the entire mainstream media (except perhaps Fox News) is said to be in on the conspiracy against Trump. Social media companies, voting machine companies and fellow travelers have been accused of being in on the conspiracy.  Even the Secretary of State and the Governor of Georgia seem to have been cast into the conspiracy by Trump—his followers certainly think they betrayed Trump for Biden. Attorney General Bill Barr has disputed Trump’s claims of fraud; Lou Dobbs is already suggesting that Barr has been “compromised.” Based on this evidence and these trends, it is reasonable to infer that as more Republicans publicly accept the results of the election, they will also be seen as “compromised” and in on the alleged conspiracy against Trump. This ever-growing number of people alleged to be involved in election fraud to help Biden seems to lead to an interesting conspiracy paradox. But first, a bit more set. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Should I Become an Academic? Academia and the Ethics of Career Choice

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[Note: This is a draft chapter from a book project I was trying to get off the ground called The Ethics of Academia. It looks unlikely that this book will ever see the light of day, and if it does it’s even more unlikely that this draft chapter will be part of it. So, I thought there would be no harm in sharing it here. The writing style in this draft chapter is intended to be somewhat ‘tongue-in-cheek’.] If you are reading this the odds are pretty good you are an academic or, at least, thinking about becoming one. But maybe you are having second thoughts? Maybe this career isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Maybe you are not sure that you want to spend the rest of your life churning out research papers, teaching students, or, God forbid, administering other researchers and teachers? I commend you. The first ethical question any academic should ask of themselves is: should I exist? I don’t mean this in the profound existential sense. Albert Camus (1942) once said that the question of suicide was the first and most important of all philosophical questions. He may well be right about that, but that’s not the question I think all academics should ask of themselves. I think they should ask the slightly more mundane question: is being an academic an ethical career choice? Not everyone gets to choose their careers but I’m guessing that if you are considering a career in academia you have the luxury of some choice. There are, presumably, other things you could do with your time. Should you do them instead? Many people fail to ask this question. Outside of some extreme exceptions — assassin, torturer, arms dealer — most of us assume that our choice of career is ethically neutral. We try do what we want to do and what we feel best suited for doing. We may not always succeed, but that’s usually the goal. Careers guidance councillors often reinforce this attitude toward career choice. They advise us to focus on our aptitudes and talents, not on the relative moral standing of. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

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