Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Governing Least: A New England Libertarianism

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2019.11.07 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Dan Moller, Governing Least: A New England Libertarianism, Oxford University Press, 2019, 326pp., $35.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780190863241. Reviewed by Andrew Lister, Queen's University The premise of Dan Moller's book is that "we should only use reason and persuasion to accomplish our distributive aims" (1). The book's main thesis is that the modern welfare state is unjust because it uses force for the sake of redistribution. Moller argues on the basis of "every day moral beliefs" (1), in particular the belief that it is wrong "to shift burdens onto others by force" (6). If my car breaks down, I can't demand that you share yours with me, let alone force you to do so; "I don't get to shift the burdens of my foster-care upbringing onto you by forcing you to give me $1000 toward college" (143). Moller asks us to consider whether we would be willing... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

Mass Surveillance, Artificial Intelligence and New Legal Challenges

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[This is the text of a talk I gave to the Irish Law Reform Commission Annual Conference in Dublin on the 13th of November 2018]In the mid-19th century, a set of laws were created to address the menace that newly-invented automobiles and locomotives posed to other road users. One of the first such laws was the English The Locomotive Act 1865, which subsequently became known as the ‘Red Flag Act’. Under this act, any user of a self-propelled vehicle had to ensure that at least two people were employed to manage the vehicle and that one of these persons:“while any locomotive is in motion, shall precede such locomotive on foot by not less than sixty yards, and shall carry a red flag constantly displayed, and shall warn the riders and drivers of horses of the approach of such locomotives…”The motive behind this law was commendable. Automobiles did pose a new threat to other, more vulnerable, road users. But to modern eyes the law was also, clearly, ridiculous. To suggest that every car should be preceded by a pedestrian waving a red flag would seem to defeat the point of having a car: the whole idea is that it is faster and more efficient than walking. The ridiculous nature of the law eventually became apparent to its creators and all such laws were repealed in the 1890s, approximately 30 years after their introduction.[1]The story of the Red Flag laws shows that legal systems often get new and emerging technologies badly wrong. By focusing on the obvious or immediate risks, the law can neglect the long-term benefits and costs.I mention all this by way of warning. As I understand it, it has been over 20 years since the Law Reform Commission considered the legal challenges around privacy and surveillance. A lot has happened in the intervening decades. My goal in this talk is to give some sense of where we are now and what issues may need to be addressed over the coming years. In doing this, I hope not to forget the lesson of the Red Flag laws.1. What’s. . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

Crying Voter Fraud

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Image Credit After winning the electoral college and losing the popular vote, Donald Trump alleged voter fraud. He went on to promise a “major investigation” into voter fraud, which failed to support his claim. As it stands, there is no evidence of rampant voter fraud in the 2016 election. It must be noted that absence of evidence need not be conclusive as evidence of absence—but those claiming voter fraud exists bear the burden of proof. After all, proving that fraud has occurred simply requires finding some evidence of such fraud. Proving that no voter fraud occurred would require analyzing every voter and vote—a far more burdensome task. To use an analogy, if someone claims that there is a monster in Loch Ness, it is up to them to find it. It is not up to others to scour every centimeter of the Loch to prove that it is not there. Significant voter fraud is rather like the Loch Ness monster—despite the failure of extensive efforts to find it, people keep claiming to have seen it. The latest sighting (of voter fraud, not the monster) was by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. At this time, Bevin seems to have lost the election by 5,000 votes. In response he claimed, without proving evidence or answering questions, that there were irregularities in the election. If such irregularities occurred, it would be a serious matter and call the integrity of the election into question. Unfortunately for the governor, no election official has offered corroborating evidence—the election seems to have been conducted properly. It could, of course, be alleged that every election official is in on the conspiracy or that only the governor can see hidden irregularities. However, the most plausible explanation is that the governor was not telling the truth. Kentucky will, however, recanvas the election results. If it does turn out that Bevin was right, then he should either be regarded as a lucky guesser or praised for having a special ability to discern fraud. If Bevin’s. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog


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[New Entry by Fred Kroon and Alberto Voltolini on November 12, 2019.] Telling fictional stories and engaging with the fictional stories of others is an important and pervasive part of human culture. But people not only tell and engage with fictional stories. They also reflect on the content of stories, and on the way these are told. Grappling with the many issues such reflection uncovers has long been a concern of professional academics in language departments and other academic programs with a focus on language. Philosophers should be included on...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Revisiting the Brown Babe’s Burden

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by Tracy Llanera The job season is here again. If you’re on the market as an ABD or an early career researcher and you have a non-mainstream profile, you’re likely experiencing these familiar job hunt sentiments and remarks: the bouts of “impostor syndrome,” the threat of competition, the sneers of “diversity hire” from dissatisfied peers […]

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News source: Blog of the APA

Philosophical Wonder and “Math Anxiety”

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The true humility, the sort of wonder which we wish to induce as philosophers, can only be achieved when one has achieved a certain degree of well-founded confidence in one’s ability to understand and assess claims. Many claims of interest are about or couched in logical or mathematical terms, and our tools are especially well suited to helping people recognise paradox and perplexity; formal philosophy hence has an important role to play in a philosophical education. That is commentary from Liam Kofi Bright (London School of Economics) in the wake of a conference on formal methods in philosophy (previously). Hamid Naderi Yeganeh, “Butterfly with Trigonometric Functions” One subject of concern among the conference attendees was “math anxiety”: the habit of our humanities students to think that symbolic reasoning is somehow intrinsically difficult and beyond their powers, and to feel especial fear and shame at the prospect of being seen not to be good at it, and thus displaying some hesitancy or avoidance about engaging with formal courses.  While there are philosophical pedagogical benefits of “making students experience difficulty, limitation, the inevitability of failure”, there is a difference between limited by “personal failings,” on the one hand, and being limited by “real difficulty in the world,” on the other. On Bright’s take, if we help students overcome the former they are in a better position to properly appreciate the latter: Philosophy begins in wonder, and teaches humility, but it is not the humility of someone with low self-regard, or wonder at how one can be such a wretch. We wish to put students in a place where they leave their degree realising that there is much to doubt about confident pronouncements made on behalf of what a Reasonable Person would do or what Rationally We Surely Must Believe. To do that in the way we intend, they must be able to recognise the puzzlement that. . .

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News source: Daily Nous

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