Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

The Problem of Evil: Eight Views in Dialogue

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2019.05.06 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews N. N. Trakakis (ed.), The Problem of Evil: Eight Views in Dialogue, Oxford University Press, 2018, 233pp., $58.50 (hbk), ISBN 9780198821625. Reviewed by Daniel M. Johnson, Shawnee State University This book consists of eight essays, each summarizing an approach to the problem of evil, together with exchanges among the contributors. The authors are arranged in two groups. The first includes Eleonore Stump, John Bishop, Graham Oppy, and N. N. Trakakis; the second, Beverly Clack, Yujin Nagasawa, Terrence W. Tilley, and Andrew Gleeson. Each article is followed by responses from the other three members of the group and a final response by the original contributor. In his introduction, the editor (N. N. Trakakis) indicates that his goal for the volume is to bring attention to approaches to the problem of evil which break out of the usual dialectic, which he characterizes as a kind of... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

School Vouchers Part Two

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Image Credit In the previous essay, I considered some of the arguments in favor of school vouchers. I now continue the discussion. Another set of arguments focus on the choice aspect, that vouchers allow parents to select education that best fits their children and education that will cultivate values. For example, choice proponents claim that vouchers (and similar programs) will enable parents of children with special needs to pick a tailored program not available in public schools. An obvious reply to these arguments is that the main reason public schools lack tailored programs is that they are woefully underfunded. Schools could offer tailored programs if they had the funding—so diverting public money to vouchers makes less sense than funding such programs. To use an analogy, this would be like arguing that public money should be diverted from community rec centers to private gyms because the rec centers lack the variety of equipment possessed by private gyms. If the equipment is critical for the community, then the funding should be used to get that equipment for the rec centers. A third set of arguments focus on economic efficiency and accountability—the gist of the arguments is that private schools will be more economically efficient and more accountable than public schools and hence they are better. While I will not deny that public schools can be inefficient and lack accountability, I will also not deny that the same is true of private schools. Look at the nightmare of for-profit colleges to see what can go wrong in the private education sector. There is obviously no public sector curse and private sector magic—one can have bad or good in either domain. If a school district is inefficient and not accountable, going private is not an automatic fix—it also leaves all the problems in place in what remains of the public sector. Rather, the solution is to increase efficiency and accountability in the public sector—as has been done with many very good. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

The Epsilon Calculus

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[Revised entry by Jeremy Avigad and Richard Zach on May 6, 2019. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The epsilon calculus is a logical formalism developed by David Hilbert in the service of his program in the foundations of mathematics. The epsilon operator is a term-forming operator which replaces quantifiers in ordinary predicate logic. Specifically, in the calculus, a term (varepsilon x A) denotes some (x) satisfying (A(x)), if there is one. In Hilbert's Program, the epsilon terms play the role of ideal elements; the aim of Hilbert's finitistic consistency proofs is to give a procedure which removes such terms from a formal proof. The procedures by which this is to be carried out are based on Hilbert's epsilon substitution method. The epsilon calculus, however, has applications in other contexts as well. The first general application of the epsilon calculus was in Hilbert's epsilon theorems, which in turn provide the basis for the first correct proof of Herbrand's theorem. More recently, variants of the epsilon operator have been applied in linguistics and linguistic philosophy to deal with anaphoric pronouns. 1. Overview 2. The Epsilon Calculus...

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News source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Seeing, Knowing, Understanding

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2019.05.05 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Barry Stroud, Seeing, Knowing, Understanding, Oxford University Press, 2018, 277pp., $65.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198809753. Reviewed by Catherine Z. Elgin, Harvard University The book consists of a series of articles written between 2001 and 2017. Most were previously published. Apart from a couple of autobiographical pieces, they concern topics in epistemology and related fields that have preoccupied Barry Stroud for many years -- skepticism, perceptual knowledge, color, judgment. Several are his contributions to ongoing debates. Stroud's epistemological position is complex. The papers on seemingly diverse topics are mutually illuminating and mutually reinforcing. Here I will focus on a line of argument that runs through the papers. Stroud recognizes that Cartesian skepticism is a deep philosophical problem. Many epistemologists disagree. They think that the skeptic's argument suffers from an easily identifiable, easily correctible flaw. Perhaps Descartes set his... Read More

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News source: Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

Using punctuation to pace

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Ernest Hemingway is famous for his use of short sentences to build tension, as in this example from A Farewell to Arms, describing Catherine Barkley’s childbirth: She won’t die. She’s just having a bad time. The initial labor is usually protracted. She’s only having a bad time.  The staccato style of the sentences builds a hold-your-breath tension.  Other writers pack everything into a single breathless exhale. One of my favorite examples is from Brian Doyle’s essay “His Last Game,” writing about a drive with his brother:  We drove through the arboretum checking on the groves of ash and oak and willow trees, which were still where they were last time we looked, and then we checked on the wood duck boxes in the pond, which still seemed sturdy and did not feature ravenous weasels that we noticed, … Punctuation-wise, most of us fall between these two extremes. We are neither staccato nor breathless. That’s just the first half of the sentence. Punctuation-wise, most of us fall between these two extremes. We are neither staccato nor breathless. Instead, we use punctuation to establish a comfortable pace for readers by grouping and emphasizing certain chunks of information. And as we edit our own work, from first to final draft, we see how small differences in punctuation come together to create larger effects. Here are two versions of a paragraph from the opening chapter of my book Sorry About That. The section describes the encounter between Oprah Winfrey and writer James Frey after the deceptions in Frey’s A Million Little Pieces had come to light. Oprah had defended Frye at first, felt betrayed as the facts of the deception came to light, and angrily led him through his lies on her program. She later felt bad and invited him back for an on-air apology. The paragraph begins with the assertion that we share some traits with Oprah and James Frey. We are all a bit like Oprah and James Frey: we make mistakes, misspeak, mislead, and. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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