Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Is X-Phi P-Hacked? (guest post by Mike Stuart, Edouard Machery and David Colaço)

Has experimental philosophy (“X-Phi”) exhibited signs of “p-hacking”? In this guest post*, Mike Stuart (Geneva), Edouard Machery (Pittsburgh), and David Colaço (Mississippi) report their findings. Is X-Phi P-Hacked? by Mike Stuart, with Edouard Machery and David Colaço Journals in psychology, neuroscience, and medicine pretty much only accept papers with significant p-values, usually setting the significance level at 0.05. Given that scientists are under immense pressure to publish often, and their papers will only be accepted if they report a p-value of 0.05 or lower, they may be tempted to make choices that help them reach this level. Without cooking the data, a significant p-value can be obtained in a number of ways, collectively known as p-hacking: You can perform statistical testing midway through a study to decide whether to collect more data (“optional stopping”); you can simply collect masses of data and then perform statistical tests on your data until something shows up (“data dredging”); you can drop outliers or rearrange treatment groups post hoc, etc. P-hacking is one of the main culprits for the replication crisis in psychology, neuroscience, and medicine. But what about experimental philosophy? Does it also suffer from p-hacking? In a paper just published in Analysis, David Colaço, Edouard Machery, and I examined a corpus of 365 experimental philosophy studies, which includes pretty much all the studies in x-phi from 1997 to 2016. We [More]

APA Board Expresses Support for Grad Student Right to Unionize

“Whether unionization will best serve their employment interests and educational objectives and values is something that faculty and graduate students should be entitled to decide for themselves,” says the Board of Officers of the American Philosophical Association (APA) in a statement released yesterday. “It is thus the APA’s position that graduate students should have the right to unionize and participate in collective bargaining should they vote democratically to do so.” The statement announces that the APA “strongly opposes” a proposed rule change by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that would hold that “students who perform services—including teaching and/or research—for compensation at a private college or university in connection with their studies are not ’employees'”, and thus do not have a federal right to unionize. Students have had that right since 2016. On the APA website and via email with the organization’s members, the Board of Officers accompanied the statement with the following: The board submitted this comment following an informal poll of APA members and constituents, initiated by the APA’s Graduate Student Council. The overwhelming majority—more than 90 percent of all respondents, and nearly 95 percent of graduate student respondents—favored the APA submitting a comment in support of graduate student workers’ right to unionize and opposing the adoption of [More]

Huayan Buddhism

[New Entry by Bryan Van Norden and Nicholaos Jones on November 5, 2019.] Huayan is one of the most philosophically interesting and historically influential Buddhist schools. The distinctive contributions of Huayan include the doctrines that "one is all, and all is one," that ultimate reality is ontologically identical with the illusory world of common sense, and that realizing these facts leads to universal compassion. Huayan is known also for the incisive nature of its arguments, particularly in Fazang's "Rafter Dialogue" and Zongmi's On the Origin [More]

Police Shootings: Mortal Threats vs Tragic Mistakes

Police sometimes face mortal threats.  They also face innocent people whom they mistakenly judge to pose a mortal threat.  If too slow to react to the former, the police risk being killed.  If too quick to react to the latter, they risk killing innocent civilians.  What is the right way to balance these risks?  Three options present themselves:(1) Give some extra weight to protecting innocent civilians, as per the duty to "protect and serve".(2) Give some extra weight to their own life, as per the standard prerogatives of self-interest. OR(3) Count both risks equally, and so seek to minimize innocent deaths (whether self or other) overall.Though the choice between these options might make a slight difference at the margins, the amount of "extra" weight that could be justified in either of the first two options is presumably limited in size.  So I take it that police should give close to equal weight to either type of risk.  They should not, for example, kill someone who is very likely to be innocent.In 'How many Police Shootings are Tragic Mistakes? How many can we Tolerate?' Christian Coons notes that (i) approximately 30 police are killed each year in the line of duty, whereas (ii) approx 600 people are killed by on-duty police each year.  How many of the latter constituted genuine mortal threats, and how many were "tragic mistakes"?  Coons notes that if assailants and police were equally likely to get in the first [More]

How Can Abstract Objects of Mathematics Be Known?†

AbstractThe aim of the paper is to answer some arguments raised against mathematical structuralism developed by Michael Resnik. These arguments stress the abstractness of mathematical objects, especially their causal inertness, and conclude that mathematical objects, the structures posited by Resnik included, are inaccessible to human cognition. In the paper I introduce a distinction between abstract and ideal objects and argue that mathematical objects are primarily ideal. I reconstruct some aspects of the instrumental practice of mathematics, such as symbolic manipulations or ruler-and-compass constructions, and argue that instrumental practice can secure epistemic access to ideal objects of [More]

Compensate Graduate Students for Service Work (guest post by Carolina Flores et al)

The following is a guest post* by Carolina Flores (Rutgers),  Milana Kostic (UCSD), Angela Sun (Michigan), Elise Woodard (Michigan), and Jingyi Wu (UC Irvine), graduate students in philosophy who comprise the organizing team of Minorities and Philosophy (MAP). Compensate Graduate Students for Service Work by Carolina Flores (primary author), and (in alphabetical order) Milana Kostic, Angela Sun, Elise Woodard, and Jingyi Wu (This post introduces and summarizes Minorities and Philosophy’s report on Service Work Distribution and Compensation Among Graduate Students, which you can read here.) What do Minorities and Philosophy activities, departmental climate initiatives, undergraduate mentoring, conference organizing, outreach activities like the Ethics Bowl, and prospective graduate student visits have in common? One answer is that they all rely crucially on graduate student labor, particularly the labor of members of marginalized groups, like women and people of color. In addition, all these activities matter deeply to the profession. They play an essential role in building and sustaining community at the departmental level and creating opportunities for vibrant philosophical discourse, turn departments into more supportive spaces, and contribute to making philosophy a more diverse discipline. There has been substantial discussions of how faculty who are members of marginalized groups are burdened with a disproportionate amount of service work (in the form of both official [More]