Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Combining Minds: How to Think about Composite Subjectivity

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2021.02.02 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Luke Roelofs, Combining Minds: How to Think about Composite Subjectivity, Oxford University Press, 2019, 336pp., $78.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780190859053. Reviewed by Eric Schwitzgebel, University of California, Riverside Panpsychism is trending. If you're not a panpsychist, you might find this puzzling. According to panpsychism, consciousness is ubiquitous. Even solitary elementary particles have or participate in it. This view might seem patently absurd -- as obviously false a philosophical view as you're likely to encounter. So why are so many excellent philosophers suddenly embracing it?[1] If you read Luke Roelofs' book, you will probably not become a panpsychist, but at least you will understand. Panpsychism, especially in Roelofs' hands, has the advantage of directly confronting two huge puzzles about consciousness that are relatively neglected by non-panpsychists. And panpsychism's biggest apparent downside, its incredible bizarreness (by the standards of ordinary common sense in our current culture), might not... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

The Parochialism of Metaethical Naturalism

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I've previously suggested that naturalism can't account for substantive boundary disputes (and I mean to turn that into a proper paper sometime soon).  But as I've been working on my Moral 2-Dism paper I've found another sense in which metaethical naturalism entails a troubling kind of parochialism.  It's this: to avoid the Open Question Argument, naturalists now hold that there is an a posteriori identity between certain moral and natural properties (on the model of water and H2O).  This entails that moral terms are 2-D asymmetric, i.e. have differing primary and secondary intensions.  This in turn means that what our moral terms pick out at a world may differ depending on whether we consider the world 'as actual' or 'as counterfactual'. But this is objectionably parochial: (our assessments of) the moral facts should not differ depending on our location in modal space.Compare 'water'.  On Twin Earth, the watery stuff is something other than H2O.  Given that our watery stuff is H2O, we judge that Twin Earth lacks water.  But suppose an oracle informs you that you've been deceived: actually you've been on Twin Earth all along, and the actual watery stuff of your acquaintance has never been composed of H2O.  You'll now reconsider, and judge that Twin Earth (but not H2O-Earth) has water. Our 'water'-judgments are, in this way, "parochial": they depend upon our (historical) location in modal space.  We may need to revise them upon revising our beliefs about which possible world is actual.  And that seems fine for the term 'water'.  Natural kind terms are inherently parochial, insofar as they're about those kinds of things we found around here.Ethics should not be so parochial. In principle, we can assess the normative truths Ni that apply to any given possible world Wi: "If Wi, then Ni."  Such conditional normative judgments must be a priori if knowable at all: they should not suddenly jump. . .

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News source: Philosophy, et cetera

The Absurdity of "Undue Inducement"

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Have you heard that it's "unethical" to pay people for janitorial work?  After all, the poor have greater need of money, and so would be more likely than the rich to take up such an offer.  To protect them from this "undue inducement", we should outlaw payment for janitorial work, and hope that enough (preferably middle-class) folks volunteer in their stead that we aren't wallowing in filth.  Sure, we can predict that things will be a bit filthier as a result, but it's worth this social cost to protect the poor from janitorial jobs.  I'm sure that our current janitors would appreciate being put out of work, right?Bioethicists seem to treat this notion of "undue inducement" as a very serious ethical objection to allowing financial incentives for medical research participation, kidney donations, and other pro-social but individually-costly medical activities.  I'm not sure whether anyone really believes it, or if it's just something that people say in order to appear "serious" since there is at any rate a generally-recognized norm by which you can signal your moral seriousness and egalitarian bona fides by insisting that we must under no circumstances allow the poor new ways to earn more money.  Either way, I've always found this completely daft.  Obviously, the reason why the poor would be more likely to take up the offer is because they benefit more from the financial reward.  That is, it's more likely to constitute a worthwhile offer for them.  The egalitarian has taken this pro-poor feature of the policy, and confused themselves into regarding it as somehow objectionable.In truth, the objection relies upon a dubious paternalism: the egalitarian believes the poor to have unavoidably poor judgment.  He does not trust them to accurately judge for themselves whether the financial benefits are worth the medical risks.  I think there are two legitimate ways to guard against this moral risk: (i). . .

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News source: Philosophy, et cetera

Biodiversity

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[Revised entry by Daniel P. Faith on February 4, 2021. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] The term "biodiversity" is a contraction of "biological diversity" or "biotic diversity". These terms all refer to the idea of living variation, from genes and traits, to species, and to ecosystems. The popular contraction "biodiversity" came about in the mid-1980s, heralded by a symposium in 1986 and an influential follow-up book, Biodiversity (Wilson 1988). These events often are interpreted as the beginning of the biodiversity story, but this...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Minimum Wage: The Small Business Argument

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One standard argument against raising the minimum wage is based on the claim that it would hurt small businesses. This argument has some merit, at least in the context of small businesses with narrow profit margins or relatively low income. While companies like Amazon and McDonalds could increase employee wages while still making a handsome profit for upper management and shareholders, a small business that is just barely making a profit or has limited income could be hard pressed to increase wages without running at a loss. To use an imaginary example, suppose Larry owns Larry’s Lawn Care and pays his workers $10 an hour. He charges his customers what amounts to $20 an hour for the labor of his employees and has expenses equal to about $5 an hour, so Larry makes a profit of $5 for every hour an employee works. He also draws a salary for his work running the business and working on lawns—this is worked in the billing on top of the $20 per hour charged for labor. But if the minimum wage were increased to $15 an hour then Larry would make no profit unless he cut expenses or increased the cost. If cutting expenses is not a viable option, then Larry will need to increase the cost of his services to profit from his business. This increase, some would argue, could cause a loss of business which would lead to fewer hours for employees—thus causing a loss of income or even resulting in employees being fired. It could be countered that if Larry’s business is breaking even while Larry is earning a wage for his own labor, then everything is good—Larry and his workers would seem to be getting what they deserve within the context of what customers are willing to pay for the services. But if the business was experiencing a loss and could not make full payroll because the wages and the bare bones cost of operating the business exceeded what customers would pay, then it can be claimed that the increase in wages hurt the business and employees. This is the sort of scenario used in. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Aristotle’s Categories

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[Revised entry by Paul Studtmann on February 2, 2021. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Aristotle's Categories is a singularly important work of philosophy. It not only presents the backbone of Aristotle's own philosophical theorizing but has exerted an unparalleled influence on the systems of many of the greatest philosophers in the western tradition. The set of doctrines in the Categories, which I will henceforth call categorialism, provides the framework of inquiry for a wide variety of Aristotle's philosophical investigations, ranging from his discussions of time and change in the...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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