Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

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

#64 - Munthe on the Precautionary Principle and Existential Risk

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In this episode I talk to Christian Munthe. Christian is a Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. He conducts research and expert consultation on ethics, value and policy issues arising in the intersection of health, science & technology, the environment and society. He is probably best-known for his work on the precautionary principle and its uses in ethical and policy debates. This was the central topic of his 2011 book The Price of Precaution and the Ethics of Risk. We talk about the problems with the practical application of the precautionary principle and how they apply to the debate about existential risk. You can download the episode here or listen below.You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and a variety of other podcasting services (the RSS feed is here). Show Notes0:00 - Introduction1:35 - What is the precautionary principle? Where did it come from?6:08 - The key elements of the precautionary principle9:35 - Precaution vs. Cost Benefit Analysis15:40 - The Problem of the Knowledge Gap in Existential Risk21:52 - How do we fill the knowledge gap?27:04 - Why can't we fill the knowledge gap in the existential risk debate?30:12 - Understanding the Black Hole Challenge35:22 - Is it a black hole or total decisional paralysis?39:14 - Why does precautionary reasoning have a 'price'?44:18 - Can we develop a normative theory of precautionary reasoning? Is there such a thing as a morally good precautionary reasoner?52:20 - Are there important practical limits to precautionary reasoning?1:01:38 - Existential risk and the conservation of value  Relevant LinksChristian's Academic HomepageChristian's Twitter account"The Black Hole Challenge: Precaution, Existential Risks and the Problem of Knowledge Gaps" by ChristianThe Price of Precaution and the Ethics of Risk by ChristianHans Jonas's The Imperative of ResponsibilityThe Precautionary Approach from the Rio DeclarationEpisode 62 with Olle Häggström. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

Formal Methods in Philosophy: Initial Thoughts and an Interactive Event (guest post by Liam Kofi Bright)

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Plausible answers as to the nature of our mission as philosophy educators gives us no unique reason to focus on logic as the mathematical tool of interest to philosophers. The following is a guest post* by Liam Kofi Bright (London School of Economics) about the justifications philosophers offer for requiring their students to have instruction in logic, over other formal methods, and about his role facilitating worldwide participation in an upcoming event on this topic. Mario Merz, Untitled (A Real Sum is a Sum of People) Formal Methods in Philosophy by Liam Kofi Bright Every year a great many philosophy departments force both graduate and undergraduate students to learn at least some mathematical logic. For these departments, some basic ability to deploy mathematical reasoning is part of the normatively expected skill set of the philosopher. What is more, we do not tend to insist on knowledge of other formal theories in the same way—logic is picked out as an especially relevant branch of mathematics. Why is that? There are two things I want to suggest about this. First, the justifications I have heard of for this would mandate making instruction in other formal tools or theories besides just logic obligatory. Second, the available justifications for this reflect deep and abiding disagreements concerning what constitutes good philosophy. The first and most frequent justification one hears for our logic teaching is that we are bound to carry on the philosophical tradition wherein logic has played a big role. What’s more, given the realities of bureaucratic institutional inertia, probably this tradition does indeed have an outsized causal role in ensuring logic still gets taught. It is certainly true that logic has a long and storied history in philosophy, with logical traditions found not just among the Aristotelians and the Stoics but also sophisticated theories of argumentation developed in classical Indian and ancient Mohist philosophy. However, the. . .

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News source: Daily Nous

Exemplars of Truth

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2019.09.14 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Keith Lehrer, Exemplars of Truth, Oxford University Press, 2019, 155pp., $65.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780190884277. Reviewed by Ted Poston, University of Alabama Keith Lehrer has been defending a coherentist account of knowledge for close to half a century. His book Knowledge (1974) articulates a careful and sophisticated account of knowledge according to which knowledge requires answering every objection to a claim from a background system of beliefs that doesn't rely on error. Over the years Lehrer has modified his account of knowledge in response to various criticisms. In this, his latest book, he continues to defend a broadly coherentist account of knowledge with some surprising changes to his earlier view. The most significant departure from his earlier view is that he now explicitly allows for justification by way of experience and in a way that provides a guarantee of truth. This... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

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