Philosophy: Call For Topics

I’ve been trying to think of some new posts on philosophical issues here, and I have a few too many ideas — some (if not most) of which would be of little interest, I conjecture, to most participants here.   So I turn it over to you: what topics, if any, would you like to see raised?

Here’s what I have in mind: people here make suggestions, I look them over and see which ones fall within my limited expertise, and then write up a post on that issue for framing discussion.

If that sounds good to you, then have at it!

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165 thoughts on “Philosophy: Call For Topics

  1. Mung,

    You’ll have to advance some specific claims if you want more than a shrug-of-the-shoulders from me. Those questions are far too vague (and rhetorical) to engage me in conversation.

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  2. In response to Kantian Naturalist’s reply:

    The standard of intelligibility for philosophical concepts isn’t whether they are operationalizable or not, but the overall pattern of compatibility and incompatibility relations between judgments that use those concepts and other judgments.

    to my:

    Apologies for my lack of reading comprehension, but could you put that into layman’s language?

    He offers:

    What I’d meant was this: the content of a philosophical concept, like that of any concept — what the concept ‘means’ — consists in (i) the role that the concept plays in judgments; (ii) the inferential relations (compatibility and incompatibility) between judgments; (iii) the conditions under which I’m disposed to use the concept to classify objects in my experience, and treat them accordingly. So, my concept of “cat” consists in such things as my disposition to say, “hi, kitty-kitty!” when I see my cats, my assessment that “if it is a cat, then it is an animal” as a good inference and “if it is cat, then it bigger than a house” as a bad inference, and so on. This is a point about conceptual content generally — i.e. what a concept means — but it holds equally well of the concepts we use in philosophy. In other words, philosophical concepts are no different from concepts generally. The philosophical attitude consists in, among other things, an awareness of what we are doing when we use concepts.

    I have to say that the clarification is more obscure than the original comment. But if “philosophical concepts are no different from concepts generally” is the essential point then let me try and illustrate my difficulty. A friend is a retired English teacher. We have learned to avoid discussion on linguistics, especially whether grammar leads or follows usage. It invariably becomes a dialogue of the deaf as she is committed to the belief that correct form is as important as communication. I love language as an art form but ideally it should also work as a way of transferring information between discussants.

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  3. Kantian Naturalist: Yeah, that seems weird to me, too. The downfall of civilization is being caused by the lack of political will to do anything substantive about corporate greed and environmental destruction.Speaking as a philosopher, I don’t see what philosophy can do about that. The transmission of critical thinking skills would produce a better electorate, but philosophy has no monopoly on that — despite what the chairs of philosophy departments tell their deans and provosts.

    How do you know that there is a downfall of civilization? If there is a “downfall of the civilization” sohuld be avoided or reversed?

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  4. Civilization has been falling down at least since the time of Plato.

    We are the barbarians.

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  5. Blas: And that is science or philosophy?

    Neither, but does it matter? It is a recommendation for economic, political, and ethical transformation based on empirical discoveries and extrapolations.

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  6. Kantian Naturalist: Neither, but does it matter? It is a recommendation for economic, political, and ethical transformation based on empirical discoveries and extrapolations.

    Recommendations for what?

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  7. Gregory,

    I have been following, and found the reviews very interesting. Generally speaking I don’t disagree with your assessments of White’s flaws.

    The only point I would liked to have seen highlighted, in light of your point about White’s tacit commitment to the Carnapian unity-of-science thesis, is that The Science Delusion basically reads like a highly watered-down, popularized, version of the Frankfurt School critique of the Vienna Circle. (I bought it because I saw “Adorno” in the index.) And that raises all sorts of interesting questions, many of which you get at, as to why that particular debate from the 1930s (and Weimar Germany) should be at all relevant to 2011 (and the globalizing West, though you rightly note that White has an entirely Americo-centric world-view).

    I also liked the format where the three of you reviewed the same book and responded to each other. I imagine it was time-consuming but highly worthwhile. Here in the States, philosophy book reviews are almost always single-authored, and even when there are two authors on the review, it reads a single piece of writing rather than as three different reviews that talk with each other as well as about the book.

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  8. Mung,

    Yes, I have a copy of that myself. I’ve poked around it in a bit. I suspect the main thesis has been superseded — I don’t think that philosophers of mind care much about reductionism, perhaps because they’ve been listening to philosophers of science (for a change).

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  9. Yes, well, reductionism still seems to be the soup du jour here at TSZ, esp when applied to mind. Or haven’t you noticed?

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