Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Publishing Philosophy One Doesn’t Believe

“Is there anything wrong with publishing philosophical work which one does not believe?” That is the central question of “Publishing Without Belief,” a recent article in Analysis by Alexandra Plakias, assistant professor of philosophy at Hamilton College. Professor Plakias argues that publishing without belief is not wrong: “the practice isn’t intrinsically wrong, nor is there a compelling consequentialist argument against it.” Here are some of the reasons she offers for her answer: “requiring philosophers to publish only what is true, or what they know, advantages philosophers with more permissive standards for knowledge or truth, while disadvantaging those with higher standards.” “biographical information about the author—including his or her personal convictions—should be… irrelevant to assessments of the merits of their argument… we don’t necessarily base our acceptance of an argument on the speaker’s (or author’s) attitude towards it.” Publishing without belief doesn’t necessarily involve hypocrisy, lack of thoroughness, or insouciance (bullshitting). “The speaker (or writer) who doesn’t believe her argument isn’t telling her audience that she believes what she’s saying—she’s asking the audience to believe it.” We don’t have sufficient reasons to think that “a philosopher won’t whole-heartedly defend a view she’s put into print, even if she isn’t [More]

The Many Moral Rationalisms

2019.07.07 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Karen Jones and François Schroeter (eds.), The Many Moral Rationalisms, Oxford University Press, 2018, 309pp., $70.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198797074. Reviewed by Nin Kirkham, The University of Western Australia When reading Hume's spirited articulation of moral sentimentalism and his powerful empiricist critique of just about everything awoke Kant from his dogmatic slumbers and prompted him, among other things, to produce the Groundwork, little did he know that he would be responsible for what would turn out to be the most influential version of one side of a metaethical debate that has now raged for centuries. This book is the latest instalment, devoted to showcasing a range of contemporary positions and controversies within the rationalist tradition, broadly understood. The collection is comprised of fourteen essays (including the introduction), which are organised into three sections: "Normativity"; "Epistemology and Meaning"; and "Psychology". Each section contains rather a diverse smorgasbord of views. In the... Read [More]

Philosopher Named to New State Dept. Commission on Unalienable Rights

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo earlier this week announced the creation of a new “Commission on Unalienable Rights,” comprised of scholars and activists interested in various dimensions of human rights, law, and religion, to provide him with “advice on human rights grounded in our nation’s founding principles and the principles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Among the dozen individuals named as members of the committee is University of South Carolina Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Department of Philosophy Chair Christopher Tollefsen. The commission will be led by Mary Ann Glendon (Harvard Law) and also includes Russell Berman (Stanford, Hoover Institution), Peter Berkowitz (Hoover Institution), Paolo Carozza (Notre Dame Law and Political Science), Hamza Yusuf Hanson (Zaytuna College), Jacqueline Rivers (Seymour Institute), Meir Soloveichik (Rabbi, Congregation Shearith Israel), Kiron Skinner (State Dept.), Katrina Lantos Swett (Lantos Foundation), David Tse-Chien Pan (UC Irvine), and Cartright Weiland (State Dept.). Pompeo said: I hope that the commission will revisit the most basic of questions: What does it mean to say or claim that something is, in fact, a human right? How do we know or how do we determine whether that claim that this or that is a human right, is it true, and therefore, ought it to be honored? How can there be human rights, rights we possess not as privileges we are granted or even earn, but [More]

Philanthropy Vouchers and Public Debate: Political vs Civic Advocacy

It's interesting to compare the ways we talk and think about political vs non-political (civic/philanthropic or market) agents, advocacy, and organization.  Consider the common objection to Effective Altruism, that it allegedly "neglects the need for systemic change."  I've rebutted this objection before, but a different aspect of it that I want to focus on today is that the criticism seems to presuppose that only politics can be systemic.  But why assume that?EAs advocate that everyone donate at least 10% of their incomes to effective causes.  If that happened, the world would be radically transformed: ending extreme poverty, material deprivation, and easily preventable disease, forever.  So if that's not a "systemic change", I don't know what is.  Admittedly, what we're calling for (in the first instance) is change to the behaviour of agents in the system, rather than changes to the rules of the system.  But changing the rules also requires behaviour (just of a political sort), so it's not entirely clear what the basis is for seeing any deep distinction or disagreement here.Perhaps the thought is that the sort of 'systemic change' constituted by universal acceptance of Effective Altruism is just too unrealistic.  That might seem an odd criticism for political radicals (of all people) to make, but it's certainly more probable that (enough) people change their political behaviour to elect a radical [More]

Why Do We Resist Knowledge? An Interview with Åsa Wikforss

Knowledge resistance is “the tendency not to accept available knowledge”, according to the mission statement of the interdisciplinary project “Knowledge Resistance: Causes, Consequences and Cures,” which was awarded a $5.6 million grant from the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences in October 2018. Åsa Wikforss is the project leader. A professor of theoretical philosophy at Stockholm University, she is also a newly-elected member – and the only philosopher – of the Swedish Academy, a prestigious cultural institution of 18 members appointed for life. In an age of misinformation both online and off, researching knowledge resistance could not be more timely. When senior politicians announce that the people have had enough of experts, it’s not long before a race to the bottom begins, where dangerous myths and misinformation can entrench themselves. In this interview, we discuss how knowledge resistance manifests itself in popular movements such as anti-vaxxers and climate [More]