Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

The Energy Transition: Who has the right to speak?

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Italy is not a windy country and it relies mainly on the sun for its renewable energy. Nevertheless, some spots of the Appennini mountains are swept by enough wind to make it possible to build wind plants. In the picture, you see the wind farm of Montemignaio, not far from Florence, where one of the first large wind plants in Italy was built, already in 2001. It has been working beautifully for nearly 20 years. Other wind plants are planned in Italy, but a strong local opposition and a lack of long-term vision at the national level make their construction difficult and slow. While the ecosystem starts showing signs of collapse, we desperately need to do something to promote the renewable energy transition. But we seem to be stuck: blocked by science denial, political polarization, sheer ignorance, and slick propaganda. Mostly, what we need seems to be a new way of seeing priorities in a world dominated by financial profits only. But, as the situation becomes worse, we seem to be retreating more and more into obsolete views where everyone sees nothing but their personal short-term interests. In the text below, you can find the transcription of a speech given by Professor Andrea Pase of the University of Padua in an ongoing debate on the advisability of building a wind power plant on the Apennines, in Italy. Pase masterfully identified a key element in the question: scale, both spatial and temporal. The same concept applies to many other public utilities. Who has the right to speak about a new, planned infrastructure? It often happens that the inhabitants of the affected territories engage in defending what they see as "their" land. But does this mean that the other Italian citizens, engaged in promoting what they think is good for the whole society should not have a say in the matter? Here, Pase broadens his vision to include even those who are not yet born, as well as polar bears, raptors, and salamanders, threatened by global warming that will wipe them out, as it. . .

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

D&D & Racism I: Fictional Races & Racism

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Wizards of the Coast(WotC), who own Dungeons & Dragons, recently issued a statement on diversity. As would be expected, the responses were divided along ideological lines. As to why you should listen to what I have to say about the matter, I will begin by establishing my relevant credentials. I have been a gamer for about 40 years and have written professionally for over 30 years. I have a doctorate in philosophy, have taught ethics and aesthetics for decades and have numerous professional publications. As such, I can justly be considered an expert on the matter. The statement made by WotC has three main aspects. The first addresses race in the real world. The second addresses the portrayal of fictional races, such as orcs and drow, within the game. The third addresses racism from the real world within the game, with the example of how a Romani-like people were portrayed in the Curse of Strahd. In this essay I will focus on the in-game issues. Before getting to the in-game issues, I need to pre-empt some of the obvious fallacies. While it is tempting to make use of straw man attacks and hyperbole, WotC is obviously not preventing gamers from doing as they wish in their own games—if you want to portray orcs as always evil, you can do that. The only change is in what WotC will be doing when it creates its content. As such, the only sort of censorship issue that can be raised here is self-censorship. There have, of course, been ad hominem attacks on folks at WotC that take their alleged motivations to be relevant to the correctness of their claims. In some cases, the attacks are that WotC is just cynically engaged in “woke marketing” to sell more product. While this could be smart capitalism, it proves nothing about the correctness of their position. In other cases, the folks at WotC have been attacked for being liberals making things soft and safe for the dainty snowflakes. This is also just an ad hominem and proves nothing—one must engage with the actual. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

The ten worst predictions in history: learning from past mistakes

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  Ugo Bardi experiments with new predictive methods. This post was inspired mainly by the shock I had with the various failed attempts to predict the outcome of the Covid-19 epidemic. It was truly a sobering experience: bad predictions, clueless politicians, arrogant scientists, idiotic journalists, and more. It made me doubt of the usefulness of models in general. I think we are doing several (too many) things wrong with the way we use models and (sometimes) we trust them. I'll be discussing more on this subject in future posts, for the time being, here is a list of failed predictions that I think can teach us something. 1. Coronavirus Deaths. In 2020, the model developed in large part by Neil Ferguson at the Imperial College in London was the main element that led the British government to engage in a strict "lockdown" policy to avoid the hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of deaths that the model predicted as a result of the COVID-19 disease. Most European States followed suit. It is still early to evaluate how the real world followed the model but, if we look at the result proposed in the "Report n. 9", we see that the model was clearly overly pessimistic. The authors of the model defended their work saying that their prediction of doom was just one of several scenarios, which is correct, but weak as a defense. In the future, we'll be able to say if Europeans truly wrecked their economies for nothing but, for the time being, the coronavirus experience can be seen as a sobering experience on the limits of the models as predictive tools.2. The Population Bomb. In 1968, Paul Erlich and his wife Anne wrote a book titled "The Population Bomb." To say that it was catastrophistic is a little of an understatement. It is known to have contained the sentence  In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. As we all know, that didn't happen. Instead, the 1970s ushered an era of. . .

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News source: Cassandra's Legacy

Appeal to Tradition 3: The Scope Problem

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The appeal to tradition assumes a key part of what makes a belief or practice true or correct is its age—that is, it is old enough to be a tradition. If defenders of tradition simply went with the oldest beliefs and practices they could find, there would be no need to sort out which traditions to accept beyond discerning which are the most ancient. But those making the appeal rarely use it to defend the ancient beliefs or practices. For example, while American defenders of “traditional” gender roles often hearken back to their perception of a past, they do not  draw their traditions of sexual roles from ancient Greece. This is not surprising—though these are ancient, they are not consistent with the values that are presented as traditional by present day American conservatives. Since defenders of tradition do not follow the “oldest is best” principle, they need some other guide in selecting their traditions—some principle other than time. This leads to the obvious dilemma: if time is the determining factor for what is best, then they would need to embrace the oldest practices and beliefs they can find. If there are other factors, then there would be no need to appeal to tradition—they could just use these other factors to defend their beliefs and practices. The first option is absurd; the second makes referring to tradition pointless—except as a fallacy or rhetorical device. While the scope of time  is a problem for the defenders of tradition, there are analogous problems. While time is obviously a factor, one also must consider geography. For example, Christian Americans who appeal to tradition when defending religious values do not embrace the traditions of the China, Persia (now Iran), or India. They focus on the United States and Europe. Not only that, they must focus on specific groups within those geographic locations—after all, there are diverse traditions in even a single American state. And even single cities. And even within a single family. Those making. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Collingwood’s Aesthetics

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[Revised entry by Gary Kemp on July 2, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] R. G. Collingwood (1889 - 1943) was primarily a philosopher of history, a metaphysican and archaeologist, and considered his work in aesthetics - the principal work being his The Principles of Art (1938) - as secondary (for more about his general philosophy, see the entry on Robin George Collingwood). But the work in aesthetics has enjoyed a persistent readership that continues into the present. In the years after WWII he was probably...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Why big protests aren’t a good measure of popular power

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The recent wave of protests of the Black Lives Matters movement in the United States and around the world has opened up a space of political possibility for proposals, like disbanding abusive police departments, which seemed radical and utopian only weeks earlier. In the broad sweep of history, a similar process has been seen time and time again: Significant political change often only arises in the wake of mass protest and popular civic resistance.Surely mass protest is the fundamental expression of popular power? The bigger and more vibrant the protest, the more popular power there is? By contrast, when the society quietly chugs along, the greasy wheels of political and institutional processes smoothly turning without disruption, surely this shows a deficiency or an absence of popular power?This view of popular power–let’s call it the insurgent view–may be appealing on face value, but it contains a paradox. On the insurgent view, a basically oligarchic regime which is convulsed by protest counts as expressing popular power more authentically than a fair and equal regime which has mechanisms in place to deal with grievances before they reach boiling point. The insurgent view has often been traced back to the work of 17th-century philosopher Benedict de Spinoza: if we turn to the philosophy of Spinoza, we can fine-tune our understanding of popular power to escape this paradox.Some elements of the insurgent view find genuine support in Spinoza’s writings. More than any other figure in the history of political thought, Spinoza takes popular rebellion as the central political phenomenon needing to be understood. He himself witnessed many such disturbances, both in his native Dutch Republic, and as a keen observer of events in other countries. The novelty of Spinoza’s approach is his striking lack of interest in parsing whether rebellions are justified or not, and equal lack of interest in making distinctions between permissible and impermissible. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

Public health and Georges Canguilhem’s philosophy of medicine

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Born in Castelnaudary in France 4 June 1904, Georges Canguilhem was a highly influential 20th century French philosopher of medicine. He took particular interest in the evolution of medical philosophy, the philosophy of science, epistemology, and biological philosophy.After serving in the military for a short period he taught in secondary schools, before becoming editor for Libres Propos, a radical journal. He was a pacifist and in 1927 deliberately dropped a rifle onto his examiner during officer training.In 1936 he began studying medicine in Toulouse. He took up a post at the University of Strasbourg in 1941. In 1943 he received his medical doctorate after completing his doctoral dissertation, The Normal and the Pathological. In the same year the Gestapo invaded the University of Strasbourg, injuring and killing several students and professors. Canguilhem managed to escape. After this he joined the French Resistance. He was awarded the Military Cross and the Médaille de la Résistance. He also wrote pieces of writing that criticised the fascist dictatorships in Italy and Germany.His most well know piece of writing, On the Normal and the Pathological (1966), was an incredibly valuable contribution to the history of science in the 20th century. Contemplating the more significant change in perceptions of biology as an established, respectable subject in the late 19th century, Canguilhem explored the way that health and disease were considered and defined. It explored how epistemology, biology, and science combined with philosophy.Canguilhem was also one of the earliest medical philosophers to use the term autopoietic in medical biology. Autopoiesis refers to the organised state of organic activity. Essentially, a living system continues to reshape itself, thereby distinguishing it from its environment. This helped in how health and disease were considered and even treated in both medical science and medical philosophy.Canguilhem’s medical philosophy has contributed. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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