Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

New Open Access Text On Probability & Decision

Jonathan Weisberg, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto, has created a new open-access book on probability and decision-making. It has the brilliant title Odds & Ends. The book, which requires neither a background in deductive logic nor familiarity with other formal methods, and makes generous use of visual aids, is intended for introductory philosophy courses on probability and inductive logic. It is free and also open-source, which means instructors can alter it to suit their teaching needs, and is available as a PDF and in HTML. Professor Weisberg says: By the end of the course, students with little formal background have a bevy of tools for thinking about uncertainty. They can understand much more of the statistical and scientific discourse they encounter. And hopefully they have a greater appreciation for the value of formal methods. Students who already have strong formal tools and skills will, I hope, better understand their limitations. I want them to understand why these tools leave big questions open—not just philosophically, but also in very pressing, practical ways. He credits Brian Skyrms’ Choice & Chance, Ian Hacking’s An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic, and Kieran Healy’s book Data Visualization: A Practical Introduction as influences for his book. You can access Odds & Ends here.   The post New Open Access Text On Probability & Decision appeared first on Daily [More]

Quantum Theory and Common Sense: It's Complicated

Physical theories can open new vistas of human thought, suggesting that the world is not what it seems to be. This situation presents itself as a conflict between the scientific account of the world and “common sense”, a conflict that scientists sometimes gleefully portray as the defeat of common sense. There are clear historical episodes of this character.Copernicus, for example, proposed that instead of the Earth being fixed in place with the Sun, planets and stars whirling around it, it is the Earth itself that is spinning on its axis and orbiting the Sun. A quick calculation shows that locations at the equator would then be moving at about a thousand miles an hour due to the rotation of the Earth, and the whole Earth moving over million miles a day in its orbit around the Sun. In a world in which a speed of 10 miles an hour would be considered fast, these sorts of apparently unnoticed motions defied common sense. If the Earth is spinning so fast, one wonders, how could the birds [More]

A “Data-Driven” History of Philosophy of Science

“Philosophy of science is what philosophers of science do. But what is it that philosophers of science do?” A team of researchers has just published their answer, based on computational text-mining of every issue of the journal Philosophy of Science published from 1934-2015. In “What Is This Thing Called Philosophy of Science? A Computational Topic-Modeling Perspective, 1934-2015,” forthcoming in HOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science, authors Christophe Malaterre, Jean-François Chartier, and Davide Pulizzotto (Université du Québec à Montréal) argue that their method complements other current historical approaches. They say their methods make it possible to “comprehensively analyze the semantic content of large corpuses of full-text documents, thereby providing an empirical basis for content-related studies, be they synchronic or diachronic.” As for what they learned, and how, they write: we apply these methods to the complete full-text corpus of Philosophy of Science from its very start in 1934 up until 2015 to empirically investigate which research questions philosophers of science have been concerned with and how these questions evolved in the last 82 years. By applying topic-modeling algorithms, we identified 126 key topics that were present in the journal articles during this period. We also analyzed how these topics evolved in significance over time. Our findings concur with [More]

Ideological Ascent and Asymmetry

There's a certain dialectical move I sometimes see, wherein you criticize someone's political conduct as unreasonable on grounds that abstract away from the (first-order) details that they're actually responding to.  We might call this ideological ascent, as the critic insists on looking only at abstract features of the dialectical situation, e.g. the mere fact that it involves an "ideological disagreement", without any heed to the actual details of the dispute.Ideological ascent seems to presuppose a symmetrical view of political/ideological merit: that "both sides" of a dispute are (at least roughly) equally reasonable.  This convenient assumption saves one from the hard work of actually evaluating the first-order merits of the case under dispute.  (See also: in-betweenism.)  Alas, people have been known to advance unreasonable political views from time to time.Some moral principles can work while abstracting away from the first-order details.  For example, you probably shouldn't literally crucify your political opponents, flay them, or bury them alive, even if they've deliberately implemented objectively harmful policies.  The cases in which such violence would be justified are so rare that you likely don't need to get into the details of the dispute before criticizing someone who wants to literally crucify their political opponents.  Ideological ascent works for such easy cases.You might also find the odd individual who [More]


[New Entry by Riccardo Chiaradonna and Adrien Lecerf on August 27, 2019.] Iamblichus (ca. 242 - ca. 325) was a Syrian Neoplatonist and disciple of Porphyry of Tyre, the editor of Plotinus' works. One of the three major representatives of early Neoplatonism (the third one being Plotinus himself), he exerted considerable influence among later philosophers belonging to the same tradition, such as Proclus, Damascius, and Simplicius. His work as a Pagan theologian and exegete earned him high praise and made a decisive contribution to the transformation of Plotinian metaphysics into the full-fledged [More]

Syllabus Sleeper Hits

The fall term is getting underway at many institutions of higher education, and a philosophy professor has written in with a suggested topic for discussion: syllabus sleeper hits. She writes: I thought it might be timely, and useful, to invite people to post their syllabus “sleeper hits”: articles that might not be obvious or canonical choices, or which might have seemed like gambles to teach, but that precipitated unusually good class sessions. We all have them, don’t we? And since many of us have our syllabi on are minds right now…. Readers, what have you found to be your syllabus sleeper hits? The post Syllabus Sleeper Hits appeared first on Daily [More]