Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

#55 - Baum on the Long-Term Future of Human Civilisation

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In this episode I talk to Seth Baum. Seth is an interdisciplinary researcher working across a wide range of fields in natural and social science, engineering, philosophy, and policy. His primary research focus is global catastrophic risk. He also works in astrobiology. He is the Co-Founder (with Tony Barrett) and Executive Director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute. He is also a Research Affiliate of the University of Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. We talk about the importance of studying the long-term future of human civilisation, and map out four possible trajectories for the long-term future.You can download the episode here or listen below. You can also subscribe on a variety of different platforms, including iTunes, Stitcher, Overcast, Podbay, Player FM and more. The RSS feed is available here. Show Notes0:00 - Introduction1:39 - Why did Seth write about the long-term future of human civilisation?5:15 - Why should we care about the long-term future? What is the long-term future?13:12 - How can we scientifically and ethically study the long-term future?16:04 - Is it all too speculative?20:48 - Four possible futures, briefly sketched: (i) status quo; (ii) catastrophe; (iii) technological transformation; and (iv) astronomical23:08 - The Status Quo Trajectory - Keeping things as they are28:45 - Should we want to maintain the status quo?33:50 - The Catastrophe Trajectory - Awaiting the likely collapse of civilisation38:58 - How could we restore civilisation post-collapse? Should we be working on this now?44:00 - Are we under-investing in research into post-collapse restoration?49:00 - The Technological Transformation Trajectory - Radical change through technology52:35 - How desirable is radical technological change?56:00 - The Astronomical Trajectory - Colonising the solar system and beyond58:40 - Is the colonisation of space the best hope for humankind?1:07:22 - How should the study of the long-term future proceed from here? . . .

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News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

Sentencing Justice

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While there are many theories of punishment and these invite endless debate, there are some basic principles that seem quite plausible within the context of the political and moral philosophy of American thought. Image Credit In general, it seems reasonable to accept (within this context) that punishments in the legal system need to be consistent, impartial and proportionate. Consistency in punishments requires that the same crimes be punished in the same manner and to the same degree, allowing for application of the principle of relevant difference. The need to allow for relevant difference is, of course, the fact that crimes are rarely identical and the differences between crimes of the same type can be relevant to sentencing. Naturally, one might insist that these differences would make for different crimes, but this can be considered by comparing relevantly similar crimes. Impartiality requires that the same punishments be applied to people regardless of their race, religion, economic class and other such factors that are not relevant. Naturally, relevant differences can be justly applied—which can cause considerable debate over what is and is not relevant. Proportionate punishment requires that, as the saying goes, the punishment fits the crime. This can also be applied across crimes. For example, since cocaine and crack are essentially the same sort of drug, any punishments for possessing or selling them should be the same regardless of whether the drug was cocaine or crack cocaine. As should be expected, the American criminal justice system relentlessly fails to meet these basic principles. To illustrate this, I will make use of the case of Paul Manafort. Manafort was, in a recent trial, sentenced to 47 months in prison for committing crimes amounting to millions of dollars. The judge regarded the sentencing guidelines, which recommended 19-24 years, as too harsh and elected for this far more lenient sentence. While it can certainly be. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

Bell’s Theorem

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[Revised entry by Wayne Myrvold, Marco Genovese, and Abner Shimony on March 13, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Bell's Theorem is the collective name for a family of results, all of which involve the derivation, from a condition on probability distributions inspired by considerations of local causality, together with auxiliary assumptions usually thought of as mild side-assumptions, of probabilistic predictions about the results of spatially separated experiments that conflict, for appropriate choices of quantum states and experiments, with quantum mechanical predictions. These probabilistic predictions take the form of...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Prospective-student visits and PhD advisors

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In our most recent "how can we help you?" thread, Kent writes: I'm a current MA student about to visit PhD programs, and I've realized that I have no idea what to say in meetings with potential faculty advisors. I've thought about trying to read some of their work beforehand, but I'm not sure how discussing that would help me (other than perhaps getting a handle on their methodological approach). I'm concerned about quality of advisement and so on, but I don't want to ask questions that might come off as indelicate or rude. Some guidance would be much appreciated! Great query. In my experience, a student's eventual choice of PhD supervisor is absolutely vital. Some supervisors are effective, churning our successful PhDs and job-candidates left and right. Other supervisors, on the other hand, are truly awful--routinely having students who either never graduate or fail to be competitive on the job-market due to poor mentoring. As I don't work as a PhD supervisor myself, and it's been a long while since I've been in a PhD program, I'm not sure what a prospective student should say or ask a potential advisor during a campus visit--beyond simply having a conversation and trying to suss out whether the advisor is a good fit 'personality-wise.' For what it's worth, my first-, second-, and third-hand experience is that being a good personality fit is important. Some particularly confident students may thrive under pressure--and indeed, may even need pressure from a supervisor to work effectively (if they are liable to procrastination). This kind of student may benefit from having a really active, vocal, and critical supervisor. However, other students--for example, students liable to insecurity--may respond poorly to an advisor like this. Indeed, I've not only seen this happen--certain types of students losing confidence in their abilities (and, in turn, their work-ethic) due to overly-critical. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

Prospective students and potential PhD advisors

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In our most recent "how can we help you?" thread, Kent writes: I'm a current MA student about to visit PhD programs, and I've realized that I have no idea what to say in meetings with potential faculty advisors. I've thought about trying to read some of their work beforehand, but I'm not sure how discussing that would help me (other than perhaps getting a handle on their methodological approach). I'm concerned about quality of advisement and so on, but I don't want to ask questions that might come off as indelicate or rude. Some guidance would be much appreciated! Great query. In my experience, a student's eventual choice of PhD supervisor is absolutely vital. Some supervisors are effective, churning our successful PhDs and job-candidates left and right. Other supervisors, on the other hand, are truly awful--routinely having students who either never graduate or fail to be competitive on the job-market due to poor mentoring. As I don't work as a PhD supervisor myself, and it's been a long while since I've been in a PhD program, I'm not sure what a prospective student should say or ask a potential advisor during a campus visit--beyond simply having a conversation and trying to suss out whether the advisor is a good fit 'personality-wise.' For what it's worth, my first-, second-, and third-hand experience is that being a good personality fit is important. Some particularly confident students may thrive under pressure--and indeed, may even need pressure from a supervisor to work effectively (if they are liable to procrastination). This kind of student may benefit from having a really active, vocal, and critical supervisor. However, other students--for example, students liable to insecurity--may respond poorly to an advisor like this. Indeed, I've not only seen this happen--certain types of students losing confidence in their abilities (and, in turn, their work-ethic) due to overly-critical. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

Heidegger and the Problem of Consciousness

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2019.03.16 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Nancy J. Holland, Heidegger and the Problem of Consciousness, Indiana University Press, 2018, 132pp., $38.00 (pbk) ISBN 9780253035943. Reviewed by Joe Balay, Christopher Newport University The title of Nancy Holland's new study is ambiguous. A book on Heidegger and consciousness? Does the author mean Husserl and consciousness? After all, is Heidegger a thinker of consciousness or one of its most profound critics? Should the reader hear the title as promising an explication of Heidegger's contribution to the longstanding mind/body problem, or as Heidegger's problematization of the very question? This ambiguity constitutes the intrigue of Holland's investigation. To be clear, Holland's study is aimed at re-thinking the question of consciousness by drawing on the work of Heidegger. Her target is the Cartesian legacy of dualism and the prevailing trend in philosophy to subordinate the mental to the physical. Holland argues that... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

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