Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cole on Iraq and Libya

Juan Cole has a nice post listing some differences between the Iraq of 2003 and the Libya of now (here). (For the record, I was against the first and uncertain about the second. I don't think that makes me a "warmonger", but that's subject to debate.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I've been thinking about the sorts of philosophical arguments I might give if I were Chuck Norris. I think I have one. Oh, it's a good one!

There's a new paper coming out in Mind & Language (here) arguing (roughly) that order effects influence the intuitions of philosophers just as much as the influence the intuitions of non-philosophers. The lesson? Hard to say, but it might be that our moral intuitions are unreliable.

Or, are they!?!

Here's a response worthy of Chuck (i.e., bold and thoughtless, but mildly entertaining in the way that that Texas Ranger show was). On the prospectivist view of obligation, what an agent ought to do depends upon that agent's normative and non-normative evidence. What you ought to do is maximize expectable utility. Where does our non-normative evidence come from? Perception, testimony, memory, and introspection. Where does our normative evidence come from? Intuition. With order effects, we find that intuition can be partially determined by the order in which cases are presented to a subject. Why not say, then, that order effects are among the conditions that determine what your evidence is? If it does, then the conditions like the order in which you consider a case do determine what you are obligated to do by helping to determine what your evidence is. So, you cannot take the observation that our intuitions are subject to order effects as any reason to think that our intuitive judgments are unreliable. Judgments are only unreliable if they aren't reliably true, but the truth of these particular judgments depend upon the evidence you have for them. That depends upon what your intuitions are. That depends (in part) upon the order which the cases are presented to you.

No, I don't endorse the response. I think it's amusing that someone could offer this response, especially because I don't quite see what's wrong with it (apart from the account of moral obligation the response assumes).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Who are you, Kant's great-great-great-grandniece?


"I am really disgusted with what's been going on in Libya and Gadhafi's actions, but am also really cynical about our decision to go in there. We're supporting dictators that are as bad as Gadhaifi and treating their citizens just as badly, but we're not doing anything about that or helping to overturn those regimes."

I'm sure we'll be deluged with remarks like this in the days to come, but what exactly is the author trying to say? Can't tell which of these is the author's view:
(a) We're obliged to do nothing owing to our imperfections even though it would be better if we were to act;
(b) We're obliged to attack everyone simultaneously because it's better to act in this case and fair is fair.

A third option might be nice.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Debts, duties, and DOOM

Came across something rather curious online, online discussions where strangers were censuring other strangers who were thinking about stiffing their credit card companies. Started to wonder how many Americans would say that our obligations to Visa and Mastercard would follow us into the afterlife. The evidence suggested that there's a lot of people who think we should take second and third jobs in heaven. Paul Kelleher directed my attention to this horrible piece from TPM: BoA tries to shame son into paying off his deceased mother's credit cards (here).

Since strangers tend not to care if someone lives up to their duties of beneficence, I was surprised to see how incensed they were that some stranger would give up on paying their debts when, say, those payments made it hard to put food on the table for their children. Totally bizarre. Any explanation? I would have thought that duties of beneficence were more morally significant than duties to pay off credit card debt. Do credit card companies have hordes of paid employees infiltrating online discussion threads?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Epistemic Norms

I've just received word that we're getting the green light for a volume on epistemic norms from Oxford. John Turri and I put this project together a little while ago and have assembled what I think is an exception list of contributors. Hope to have some further details as this develops. At this stage, we have some names and abstracts, but I need to talk to the people attached to those names so they'll know that we have good news!

Philosophers say the craziest things

A student of mine (Hi, Aaron) was deeply disturbed by some transcribed remarks from today's lecture:
"Equals vitamin post immediately where are in the blue as it is long where I'll are in love. Total material. What is the idea that there is this pistol out of the awareness that is this thing is is that so is wrong with a little while and had lunch at voices that are received sodas in Venice? What happens when a tree falls in the wind has no known out here and I might sound but I'm trying to figure class asked that question to question the tree of course the treatments on the clutch all the express of the trees. Tree farm owner of my family lives in the view is this is a love on the things that you can use you when people just yelling out because you want to finally have a policy not only that is crazy you they assistance your phone and all kinds for the Tahoe home safe and"

That does sound crazy, doesn't it? (In defense, I can't claim full credit. The text to speech program might have done some of the work.)