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Previous epidemics might have prepared us for Covid-19 — if only their histories were better remembered and their victims duly honored. We could have been more like Venice, a city defined by disease

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Previous epidemics might have prepared us for Covid-19 — if only their histories were better remembered and their victims duly honored. We could have been more like Venice, a city defined by disease

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News source: Arts & Letters Daily

Critical Thinking & COVID-19 VIII: The Prediction Fallacy

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As politicians and pundits debate about reopening America, some make the case that we can and should reopen soon because the dire predictions turned out to be wrong. On the face of it, this seems like good reasoning: things are not as bad as predicted, so we can start reopening sooner than predicted. To use an analogy, if a fire was predicted to destroy much of your house, but it only burned your garage to the ground, then it is time to start planning on rebuilding and moving back in. While this line of thought is appealing, it also can be a trap. Here is how the trap works. Some politicians and pundits are pointing out that the dire predictions did not come true—for example, the governor of Florida recently noted that the hospitals were not overwhelmed as predicted and he wants to allow them to return to money making elective surgery. He also, like some other Republican governors, wants to reopen very quickly. This reasoning does initially seem sensible: the pandemic was not as bad as predicted, so we can quickly reopen. There are also those who sneer at the dire predictions and are upset at what they see as excessive precautions. This can also seem sensible: the experts predicted a really terrible outcome for COVID-19, but they were wrong. We overreacted and should roll back the precautions. So, re-open America. While it is reasonable to consider whether the precautions are excessive and to update our assessment of when to re-open, there is a tempting fallacy that needs to be avoided. This can be called “the prediction fallacy.” It occurs when someone uncritically rejects a prediction and responses to the prediction when the outcome of a prediction turns out to be false. The error in the logic occurs because the person fails to consider what should be obvious: if an effective response is made to a prediction, then the prediction is going to be “wrong.” The form of the fallacy is this:   Premise 1: Prediction P predicted X (if we do not do R). Premise 2:. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

The Tomb of the Artisan God: On Plato's Timaeus

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2020.04.13 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Serge Margel, The Tomb of the Artisan God: On Plato's Timaeus, Philippe Lynes (tr.), University of Minnesota Press, 2019, 146pp., $20.00 (pbk), ISBN 9781517906429. Reviewed by Annie Larivée, Carleton University Despite the complexity of its content and purpose, Serge Margel's book proceeds from one central intuition: that the demiurge in Plato's Timaeus, regardless of the excellence of his skills and aims, is a powerless god. The volume was originally published twenty-five years ago. Philippe Lynes's translation has an addition and a notable omission. While the addition is rather inconsequential -- a three-page preface in which Margel situates this his first book in the context of his subsequent work -- the omission is not. The original French version had a long introduction, "Avances", by Derrida, which has been omitted.[1] The question arises: can Margel's book stand on its own, or is its meaning tied to a symbiotic... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

Critical Thinking & COVID-19 VII: Argument Against Expertise

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In a previous essay I went over the argument from authority and the standards to use to distinguish between credible and non-credible experts. While people often make the mistake of treating non-experts as credible sources, they also make the mistake of rejecting credible experts because the experts are experts. This sort of fallacious reasoning is worthy of a name and the obvious choice is “argument against expertise.” It occurs when a person rejects a claim because it is made by an authority/expert and has the following form:   Premise 1: Authority/expert A makes claim C. Conclusion: Claim C is false.   While experts can be wrong, to infer that an expert is wrong because they are an expert is obviously absurd and an error in reasoning. To use a geometry example, consider the following:   Premise 1: Euclid, an expert on geometry, claimed that triangles have three sides. Conclusion: Triangles do not have three sides.   It must be noted that there are rational grounds for doubting an expert—as discussed in the essay on argument from authority. When a person rationally applies the standards of assessing an alleged expert and decides that the expert lacks credibility, this would not be an error. But to reject a claim solely because of the source is always a fallacy (usually an ad hominem) and rejecting a claim because it was made by an expert would be doubly fallacious, if there were such a thing. Since experts are generally more likely to be right than wrong, this sort of reasoning will tend to lead to accepting untrue claims. While this is a bad idea in normal times, it is even more dangerous during a pandemic. In the case of COVID-19, there are those who use this reasoning to reject the claims of medical experts. This can, obviously enough, lead to illness and death. Because the fallacy lacks all logical force, it derives its influence from psychological factors, and these are worth considering when trying to defend against and respond to this. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Space for Concern: Trump’s Executive Order on Space Resources

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Among the bevy of executive actions undertaken by President Donald Trump during the COVID-19 crisis is, of all things, an executive order (issued on 6 April 2020) promoting the development of space resources, which states in part that: Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law. Outer space is a legally and physically unique domain of human activity, and the United States does not view it as a global commons. Accordingly, it shall be the policy of the United States to encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law. But what does this really mean, and is it a good or a bad thing? The executive order fits the mold of a common rallying call among space advocates that, confined to Earth, humanity exists in a closed society that stifles progress on all fronts, but especially on social and economic fronts.  Progress, we’re told, requires an ever expanding space frontier that will provide humanity with limitless resources, removing any need to be concerned about the rate at which we consume natural resources.  Further, we’re told, this progress requires a minimally-regulated, free market approach to space resources.  It is only through permitting the private sector free reign over space resources that humanity can even hope to see any benefits. In some respects this new executive order is nothing new at all when it comes to US space policy, given that the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015, signed by then-President Barack Obama, had already codified the US government’s willingness to defend American firms’ claims to ownership over any resources they extract from space.  Questions still linger as to whether this law is compatible with Article II of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits national sovereignty claims over celestial bodies (such as the Moon, the. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

Hume’s Newtonianism and Anti-Newtonianism

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[Revised entry by Eric Schliesser and Tamás Demeter on April 21, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] David Hume's philosophy, especially the positive project of his "science of man", is often thought to be modeled on Newton's successes in natural philosophy. Hume's self-described "experimental method" (see the subtitle to Treatise) and the resemblance of his "rules of reasoning" (THN 1.3.15)[1] with Newton's are said to be evidence for this position (Noxon...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Hume’s Aesthetics

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[Revised entry by Theodore Gracyk on April 21, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] David Hume's views on aesthetic theory and the philosophy of art are to be found in his work on moral theory and in several essays. Although there is a tendency to emphasize the two essays devoted to art, "Of the Standard of Taste" and "Of Tragedy," his views on art and aesthetic judgment are intimately connected to his moral philosophy and theories of human thought and emotion. His theory of taste and beauty is not entirely original, but his arguments generally display the keen analysis typical of his best...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Luca Incurvati’s Conceptions of Set, 6

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In §3.3 of Conceptions of Set, Luca discusses what he calls the ‘no semantics’ objection to the iterative conception. He sums up the supposed objection like this: Consider the case of iterative set theory, which for present purposes will be our base theory Z+. Since the set-theoretic quantifier is standardly taken as ranging over all sets, it seems that one of the interpretations quantified over in the definition of logical validity for L [the standard first-order language of set theory] – the intended interpretation – will have the set of all sets as its domain. But there can be no set of all sets in Z+, on pain of contradiction. Hence, the objection goes, if we take all sets to be those in the hierarchy, we cannot give the usual model-theoretic definition of logical validity. Or rather, that is how the objection starts. Of course, the further thought that is supposed to give the consideration bite is that, if we can’t apply the usual model-theoretic definition of logical validity, then we are bereft of a story to tell about why we can rely on the inferences we make in our set theory when we quantify over all sets. As Luca immediately remarks, this challenge is not especially aimed at the iterative conception: any conception of the universe of sets that rules out there being a set of all sets will be open to the same prima facie objection. It looks too good to be true! Graham Priest is mentioned as a recent proponent of this objection. But as Luca point out, Kreisel over fifty years ago both mentions the issue raised in the quote and has a response to what I called the further thought which is supposed to make the issue a problem. For Kreisel’s ‘squeezing argument’ is designed precisely to show that we have a perfectly good warrant for using standard first-order logic as truth-preserving over all structures, not just the ones that can be formally regimented in the usual model-theoretic way. I’ve defended Kreisel’s argument, properly interpreted, e.g. here: so I’m. . .

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News source: Logic Matters

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