Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Combining Minds: How to Think about Composite Subjectivity

2021.02.02 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Luke Roelofs, Combining Minds: How to Think about Composite Subjectivity, Oxford University Press, 2019, 336pp., $78.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780190859053. Reviewed by Eric Schwitzgebel, University of California, Riverside Panpsychism is trending. If you're not a panpsychist, you might find this puzzling. According to panpsychism, consciousness is ubiquitous. Even solitary elementary particles have or participate in it. This view might seem patently absurd -- as obviously false a philosophical view as you're likely to encounter. So why are so many excellent philosophers suddenly embracing it?[1] If you read Luke Roelofs' book, you will probably not become a panpsychist, but at least you will understand. Panpsychism, especially in Roelofs' hands, has the advantage of directly confronting two huge puzzles about consciousness that are relatively neglected by non-panpsychists. And panpsychism's biggest apparent downside, its incredible bizarreness (by the standards of ordinary common sense in our current culture), might not... Read [More]

The Parochialism of Metaethical Naturalism

I've previously suggested that naturalism can't account for substantive boundary disputes (and I mean to turn that into a proper paper sometime soon).  But as I've been working on my Moral 2-Dism paper I've found another sense in which metaethical naturalism entails a troubling kind of parochialism.  It's this: to avoid the Open Question Argument, naturalists now hold that there is an a posteriori identity between certain moral and natural properties (on the model of water and H2O).  This entails that moral terms are 2-D asymmetric, i.e. have differing primary and secondary intensions.  This in turn means that what our moral terms pick out at a world may differ depending on whether we consider the world 'as actual' or 'as counterfactual'. But this is objectionably parochial: (our assessments of) the moral facts should not differ depending on our location in modal space.Compare 'water'.  On Twin Earth, the watery stuff is something other than H2O.  Given that our watery stuff is H2O, we judge that Twin Earth lacks water.  But suppose an oracle informs you that you've been deceived: actually you've been on Twin Earth all along, and the actual watery stuff of your acquaintance has never been composed of H2O.  You'll now reconsider, and judge that Twin Earth (but not H2O-Earth) has water. Our 'water'-judgments are, in this way, "parochial": they depend upon our (historical) location in modal space.  We may need to [More]

The Absurdity of "Undue Inducement"

Have you heard that it's "unethical" to pay people for janitorial work?  After all, the poor have greater need of money, and so would be more likely than the rich to take up such an offer.  To protect them from this "undue inducement", we should outlaw payment for janitorial work, and hope that enough (preferably middle-class) folks volunteer in their stead that we aren't wallowing in filth.  Sure, we can predict that things will be a bit filthier as a result, but it's worth this social cost to protect the poor from janitorial jobs.  I'm sure that our current janitors would appreciate being put out of work, right?Bioethicists seem to treat this notion of "undue inducement" as a very serious ethical objection to allowing financial incentives for medical research participation, kidney donations, and other pro-social but individually-costly medical activities.  I'm not sure whether anyone really believes it, or if it's just something that people say in order to appear "serious" since there is at any rate a generally-recognized norm by which you can signal your moral seriousness and egalitarian bona fides by insisting that we must under no circumstances allow the poor new ways to earn more money.  Either way, I've always found this completely daft.  Obviously, the reason why the poor would be more likely to take up the offer is because they benefit more from the financial reward.  That is, it's more likely to constitute a [More]

Biodiversity

[Revised entry by Daniel P. Faith on February 4, 2021. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] The term "biodiversity" is a contraction of "biological diversity" or "biotic diversity". These terms all refer to the idea of living variation, from genes and traits, to species, and to ecosystems. The popular contraction "biodiversity" came about in the mid-1980s, heralded by a symposium in 1986 and an influential follow-up book, Biodiversity (Wilson 1988). These events often are interpreted as the beginning of the biodiversity story, but [More]