Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

A New Paradox of Deontology

There's something odd about the view that it'd be wrong to kill one innocent even to prevent five other (comparable) killings.  Given plausible bridging principles, this implies that we should prefer Five Killings over Killing One to Prevent Five.  But that seems an odd preference: how can five killings be preferable to one?  The deontologist (like Setiya) must think that agency is playing a crucial role here.*  While we should prefer one gratuitous killing over five, there is (on this view) a special kind of killing -- killing as a means -- where the good results of the killing don't get to count. So Killing One to Prevent Five is treated as morally akin to Six Killings, rather than to One Killing.This is odd enough, but I think it gets worse.  For compare some variations of the case.  First note that if the good results of the killing-as-a-means don't get to count, then it seems it shouldn't matter to our moral verdicts whether the intended good results actually eventuate or not.  So consider Killing One in a Failed Attempt to Prevent Five (KOFAPF).  Clearly, KOFAPF is much worse an outcome than Killing One to Prevent Five (KOPF): it has the same agential intervention, but with six killings instead of just one.  So we should strongly prefer KOPF over KOFAPF.  But then how can we coherently prefer Five Killings over KOPF?KOFAPF seems broadly akin to Six Killings.  We may suppose that all the same people [More]

The Moral Problem of Grading: An Extended Analysis

[This, admittedly quite long, post is a sample chapter from a book I may end up writing about the ethics of academia. I'm interested in feedback on it. Would people be interested in an entire book examining the moral dilemmas faced by the typical academic? Is this analysis of grading any good? Let me know]Grading is the bane of most academics’ lives. Several times a year the working academic will be required to grade the students in their classes. Academics often complain about this process — begrudging both the time it takes and the mind-numbing nature of the task* — but rarely think about its ethics. Most see it as an inevitable and essential part of their jobs. If they didn’t grade students’ exams and assignments then what would be the point of all that teaching? It seems so obvious that grading is the natural denouement of teaching. It’s always been done and if it wasn’t done it would be weird. Students would complain and the general public would start to wonder what people are doing in universities. So, instead of subjecting the practice to close ethical scrutiny, most academics prefer to view it with ironic detachment. They laugh about it and then they get on with it.A famous illustration of this ironic detachment is Daniel Solove’s article about the ’Staircase Method’ of grading. Solove, a law professor at George Washington University, first wrote about the method in the lead up to ‘marking season’ at his university. He realised that many of his colleagues would soon [More]

Method and Metaphysics in Plato’s Sophist and Statesman

[Revised entry by Mary-Louise Gill on February 26, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The Sophist and Statesman are late Platonic dialogues, whose relative dates are established by their stylistic similarity to the Laws, a work that was apparently still "on the wax" at the time of Plato's death (Diogenes Laertius 3.37). These dialogues are important in exhibiting Plato's views on method and metaphysics after he criticized his own most famous contribution to the history of philosophy, the theory [More]

The Pavel Haas Quartet — at Cambridge

A few days after playing at Wigmore Hall, The Pavel Haas Quartet and Boris Giltburg were in Cambridge at the Peterhouse Theatre, again playing the Shostakovich Piano Quintet. This time, the other piece in the programme was Dvořák’s Op. 81 Piano … Continue reading → The post The Pavel Haas Quartet — at Cambridge appeared first on Logic [More]

Asia in space: a recent history

Sailors have been using the stars to navigate the high seas for centuries. Actual space exploration, however, does not have a very long history. It began with the launch of the first satellite, Sputnik, on 4 October 1957 by the Soviet Union. During the last five or six decades humanity has made a significant amount of progress in the domain of space. There has been a constant human presence in outer space since 2000 with astronauts staying aboard the International Space station (ISS) in the low-Earth orbit.Since the 1970s, various Asian states have also started investing in space. States like Japan, China and India have made good progress with various conventional and innovative programmes. These states have definitely had the advantage of late starters. In the recent past particularly, in the Middle East region, states like Israel and Iran have made investments in space technologies essentially for strategic purposes.China and India became space-faring states during 1970 and 1980 [More]

International Journal of Philosophical Studies Prizes

The International Journal of Philosophical Studies (IJPS) has selected the winner of its 2019 Robert Papazian Essay Competition. The theme of the 2019 competition was “the ethics and politics of vulnerability”. The essay that won is “Matters of Trust as Matters of Attachment Security” by Andrew Kirton (University of Leeds). Here’s an abstract of the paper: I argue for an account of the vulnerability of trust, as a product of our need for secure social attachments to individuals and to a group. This account seeks to explain why it is true that, when we trust or distrust someone, we are susceptible to being betrayed by them, rather than merely disappointed or frustrated in our goals. What we are concerned about in matters of trust is, at the basic level, whether we matter, in a non-instrumental way, to that individual, or to the group of which they are a member. We have this concern as a result of a drive to form secure social attachments. This makes us vulnerable in the characteristic way of being susceptible to betrayal, because how the other acts in such matters can demonstrate our lack of worth to them, or to the group, thereby threatening the security of our attachment, and eliciting the reactive attitudes characteristic of betrayal. For winning the competition, Dr. Kirton will receive a prize of €1,500 (approximately $1,629), provided by the Papazian family. Robert Papazian, for whom the prize is named, was a political prisoner in Iran who was executed [More]

Language, Meaning and Use in Indian Philosophy: An Introduction to Mukula's Fundamentals of the Communicative Function

2020.02.21 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Malcolm Keating, Language, Meaning and Use in Indian Philosophy: An Introduction to Mukula's Fundamentals of the Communicative Function, Bloomsbury, 2019, 301pp., $88.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781350060777. Reviewed by Brendan S. Gillon, McGill University If you are interested in the problem of how expressions in natural language are understood, and in particular, how expressions have an array of meanings, and you are curious about how such problems have been raised and addressed in an intellectual tradition outside of the Western tradition, then this is the book for you. At its core is a very readable translation of a key text in the Indian philosophical, linguistic and literary tradition, Fundamentals of the Communicative Function, by Mukula Bhaṭṭa (fl. 950 CE). But Keating's book is much more than a very lucid and readable translation of a Sanskrit text on the nature of linguistic meaning. It provides all the philosophical, linguistic and literary background required to... Read [More]