Philosophical Progress and blog posts found on 22 March 20192019-03-22T23:59:00Z2019-03-22T23:59:00ZPhilosophical,2019-03-22://<b>Charles H. Pence: <a href="">Locating Uncertainty in Stochastic Evolutionary Models: Divergence Time Estimation</a></b> (pdf, 9768 words)<br /> <div>Philosophers of biology have worked extensively on how we ought best to interpret the probabilities which arise throughout evolutionary theory. In spite of this substantial work, however, much of the debate has remained persistently intractable. I offer the example of Bayesian models of divergence time estimation (the determination of when two evolutionary lineages split) as a case study in how we might bring further resources from the biological literature to bear on these debates. These models offer us an example in which a number of different sources of uncertainty are combined to produce an estimate for a complex, unobservable quantity. These models have been carefully analyzed in recent biological work, which has determined the relationship between these sources of uncertainty (their relative importance and their disappearance in the limit of increasing data), both quantitatively and qualitatively. I suggest here that this case shows us the limitations of univocal analyses of probability in evolution, as well as the simple dichotomy between “subjective” and “objective” probabilities, and I conclude by gesturing toward ways in which we might introduce more sophisticated interpretive taxonomies of probability (modeled on some recent work in the philosophy of physics) as a path toward advancing debates on probability in the life sciences.</div><br /> <b>David Mark Kovacs: <a href="">Metaphysically Explanatory Unification</a></b> (pdf, 12381 words)<br /> <div>This paper develops and motivates a unification theory of metaphysical explanation, or as I will call it, Metaphysical Unificationism. The theory’s main inspiration is the unification account of scientific explanation, according to which explanatoriness is a holistic feature of theories that derive a large number of explananda from a meager set of explanantia, using a small number of argument patterns. In developing Metaphysical Unificationism, I will point out that it has a number of interesting (and to my mind, attractive) consequences. The view offers a novel conception of metaphysical explanation that doesn’t rely on the notion of a “determinative” or “explanatory” relation; it allows us to draw a principled distinction between metaphysical and scientific explanations; it implies that naturalness and fundamentality are distinct but intimately related notions; and perhaps most importantly, it re-establishes the unduly neglected link between explanation and understanding in the metaphysical realm. A number of objections can be raised against the view, but I will argue that none of these is conclusive. The upshot is that Metaphysical Unificationism provides a powerful and hitherto overlooked alternative to extant theories of metaphysical explanation.</div><br /> <b>Javier Suárez: <a href="">Bacterial species pluralism in the light of medicine and endosymbiosis</a></b> (pdf, 8663 words)<br /> <div>This paper offers a new argument in defence of bacterial species pluralism. To do this, initially I present particular issues derived from the conflict between the non-theoretical understanding of species as units of classification and the theoretical comprehension of them as units of evolution. Secondly, the necessity of the concept of species for the bacterial world is justified; I show how both medicine and endosymbiosis research make use of concepts of bacterial species linked to their distinctive purposes which do not conjoin with the other available concepts. Finally, I argue that these examples provide a new defence for the philosophical thesis of pluralism.</div><br /> Articles and blog posts found on 21 March 20192019-03-21T23:59:00Z2019-03-21T23:59:00ZPhilosophical,2019-03-21://<b>Michael Devitt: <a href="">Sub-Sententials: Pragmatics or Semantics?</a></b> (pdf, 9806 words)<br /> <div>Stainton points out that speakers “can make assertions while speaking sub- sententially”. He argues for a “pragmatics-oriented approach” to these phenomena and against a “semantics-oriented approach”. In contrast, I argue for a largely semantics-oriented approach: typically, sub-sentential utterances assert a truth- conditional proposition in virtue of exploiting a semantic convention. Thus, there is an “implicit-demonstrative convention” in English of expressing a thought that a particular object in mind is F by saying simply ‘F’. I note also that some sub- sentential assertions include demonstrations and argue that these exploit another semantic convention for expressing a thought with a particular object in mind. I consider four objections that Stainton has to a semantics- oriented approach. The most interesting is the “syntactic ellipsis” objection, which rests on two planks: (A) the assumption that this approach must claim that what appears on the surface to be a sub-sentential is, at some deeper level of syntactic analysis, really a sentence; (B) the claim that there is no such syntactic ellipsis in these sub-sentential utterances. I argue that (A) is wrong and that (B) may well be. I also reject the other three objections: “too much ambiguity”; “no explanatory work”; and “fails a Kripkean test”. Nonetheless, occasionally, sub-sentential utterances semantically assert only a fragment of a truth-conditional proposition. This fragment needs to be pragmatically enriched to yield a propositional message. To this extent a pragmatics- oriented approach is correct.</div><br /> <b>Michael Devitt: <a href="">A methodological flaw? A reply to Korta and Perry</a></b> (pdf, 1748 words)<br /> <div>Kepa Korta and John Perry (2008), “KP”, are among many authors, including Stephen Levinson (2000), that my paper, “Three Methodological Flaws of Linguistic Pragmatism”, charges with the flaw of confusing the metaphysics of meaning with the epistemology of interpretation (2013b: 287e94). The metaphysics is concerned with what constitutes a meaning property of an utterance, the epistemology with how a hearer discovers that property. The meaning is constituted entirely by the speaker in producing the utterance and not by any interpretative process in the hearer.</div><br /> <b>Michael Devitt: <a href="">Historical biological essentialism</a></b> (pdf, 9511 words)<br /> <div>What is it to be a member of a particular taxon? In virtue of what is an organism say a Canis lupus? What makes it one? I take these to be various ways to ask about the ‘essence’, ‘nature’, or ‘identity’ of a particular taxon. The consensus answer in the philosophy of biology, particularly for taxa that are species, is that the essence is not in any way intrinsic to the members but rather is wholly relational, particularly, historical. Thus, in their excellent introduction to the philosophy of biology, Sex and Death, Kim Sterelny and Paul Griffiths have this to say: there is ‘close to a consensus in thinking that species are identified by their histories’ (1999, p. 8); ‘the essential properties that make a particular organism a platypus… are historical or relational’ (1999, p.</div><br /> <b>Alexander Pruss's Blog: <a href="">If open futurism is true, then there are possible worlds that can't be actual</a></b> (html, 206 words)<br /> <div>Assume open futurism, so that, necessarily, undetermined future tensed “will” statements are either all false or all lack truth value. Then there are possible worlds containing me such that it is impossible for it to be true that I am ever in that world. &hellip;</div><br /> <b>Alexander Pruss's Blog: <a href="">If classical theism rules out open theism, then classical theism rules out presentism</a></b> (html, 857 words)<br /> <div>If presentism and most, if not all, other versions of the A-theory are true, then propositions change in truth value. For instance, on presentism, in the time of the dinosaurs it was not true that horses exist, but now it is true. &hellip;</div><br /> <b>Richard Brown's blog: <a href="">Shombies vs Zombies (my interview from 3:AM magazine)</a></b> (html, 12766 words)<br /> <div>Richard Brown interviewed by Richard Marshall. Richard Brown is a funkybodacious philosopher of consciousness and leader of the Shombie universe. He’s asked why 1+1 has to equal 2, presented a short argument proving that there is no God, shown what’s wrong with eating meat, discussed both the delayed choice quantum eraser and pain asymbolia whils’t he flies his freak flag to Alan Turing. &hellip;</div><br /> Articles and blog posts found on 20 March 20192019-03-20T23:59:00Z2019-03-20T23:59:00ZPhilosophical,2019-03-20://<b>Jobst Landgrebe, Barry Smith: <a href="">Making AI Meaningful Again</a></b> (pdf, 10324 words)<br /> <div>Artificial intelligence (AI) research enjoyed an initial period of enthusiasm in the 1970s and 80s, but this enthusiasm was tempered by a long interlude of frustration when genuinely useful AI applications failed to be forthcoming. Today, we are experiencing once again a period of enthusiasm, fired above all by the successes of the technology of deep neural networks or deep machine learning. In this paper we draw attention to what we take to be serious problems underlying current views of artificial intelligence encouraged by these successes, especially in the domain of language processing. We then show an alternative approach to language-centric AI, in which we identify a role for philosophy.</div><br /> <b>Katherine Hawley: <a href="">Conspiracy theories, impostor syndrome, and distrust</a></b> (pdf, 5940 words)<br /> <div>Conspiracy theorists believe that powerful agents are conspiring to achieve their nefarious aims and also to orchestrate a cover-up. People who suffer from impostor syndrome believe that they are not talented enough for the professional positions they find themselves in, and that they risk being revealed as inadequate. These are quite different outlooks on reality, and there is no reason to think that they are mutually reinforcing. Nevertheless, there are intriguing parallels between the patterns of trust and distrust which underpin both conspiracy theorising and impostor thinking. In both cases subjects distrust standard sources of information, instead regarding themselves as especially insightful into the underlying facts of the matter. In both cases, seemingly-anomalous data takes on special significance. And in both cases, the content of belief dictates the epistemic behaviour of the believer. This paper explores these parallels, to suggest new avenues of research into both conspiracy theorising and impostor syndrome, including questions about whether impostor syndrome inevitably involves a personal failure of rationality, and issues about how, if at all, it is possible to convince others to abandon either conspiracy theories or impostor attitudes.</div><br /> <b>Katherine Hawley: <a href="">What is Impostor Syndrome?</a></b> (pdf, 8740 words)<br /> <div>People are described as suffering from impostor syndrome when they feel that their external markers of success are unwarranted, and fear being revealed as a fraud. Impostor syndrome is commonly framed as a troubling individual pathology, to be overcome through self-help strategies or therapy. But in many situations an individual’s impostor attitudes can be epistemically justified, even if they are factually mistaken: hostile social environments can create epistemic obstacles to self-knowledge. The concept of impostor syndrome prevalent in popular culture needs greater critical scrutiny, as does its source, the concept of impostor phenomenon which features in psychological research.</div><br /> Articles and blog posts found on 19 March 20192019-03-19T23:59:00Z2019-03-19T23:59:00ZPhilosophical,2019-03-19://<b>Alison Fernandes: <a href="">Time Travel and Counterfactual Asymmetry</a></b> (pdf, 10479 words)<br /> <div>We standardly evaluate counterfactuals and abilities in temporally asymmetric terms—by keeping the past fixed and holding the future open. Only future events depend counterfactually on what happens now. Past events do not. Conversely, past events are relevant to what abilities one has now in a way that future events are not. Lewis, Sider and others continue to evaluate counterfactuals and abilities in temporally asymmetric terms, even in cases of backwards time travel. I’ll argue that we need more temporally neutral methods. The past shouldn’t always be held fixed, because backwards time travel requires backwards counterfactual dependence. Future events should sometimes be held fixed, because they’re in the causal history of the past, and agents have evidence of them independently of their decisions now. We need temporally neutral methods to maintain connections between causation, counterfactuals and evidence, and if counterfactuals are used to explain the temporal asymmetry of causation.</div><br /> <b>Cary Nederman: <a href="">Civic Humanism</a></b> (html, 6601 words)<br /> <div>Although widely and commonly confused with republicanism, civic humanism forms a separate and distinct phenomenon in the history of Western political thought. Republicanism is a political philosophy that defends a concept of freedom as non-domination, and identifies the institutions that protect it (Pettit 1999). In particular, republicanism stands against two alternative theories of politics. The first is despotism, especially as manifested in any form of one-man rule; a republic is self-governing, and so are its denizens. The second is liberalism, which posits the primacy of the autonomous individual <i>vis-à-vis</i> public order and government; the republican values civic engagement in order to realize a form of liberty achievable only in and through the community.</div><br /> <b>J. Adam Carter, Jesper Kallestrup: <a href="">Varieties of Cognitive Integration</a></b> (pdf, 12761 words)<br /> <div>Extended cognition theorists argue that cognitive processes constitutively depend on resources that are neither organically composed, nor located inside the bodily boundaries of the agent, provided certain conditions on the integration of those processes into the agent’s cognitive architecture are met. Epistemologists, however, worry that in so far as such cognitively integrated processes are epistemically relevant, agents could thus come to enjoy an untoward explosion of knowledge. This paper develops and defends an approach to cognitive integration—<i>cluster-model functionalism</i>—which finds application in both domains of inquiry, and which meets the challenge posed by putative cases of cognitive or epistemic bloat.</div><br /> <b>Maria Reicher: <a href="">Nonexistent Objects</a></b> (html, 15766 words)<br /> <div>Are there nonexistent objects, i.e., objects that do not exist? Some examples often cited are: Zeus, Pegasus, Sherlock Holmes, Vulcan (the hypothetical planet postulated by the 19th century astronomer Le Verrier), the perpetual motion machine, the golden mountain, the fountain of youth, the round square, etc. Some important philosophers have thought that the very concept of a nonexistent object is contradictory (Hume) or logically ill-formed (Kant, Frege), while others (Leibniz, Meinong, the Russell of <i>Principles of Mathematics</i>) have embraced it wholeheartedly. One of the reasons why there are doubts about the concept of a nonexistent object is this: to be able to say truly of an object that it doesn’t exist, it seems that one has to presuppose that it exists, for doesn’t a thing have to exist if we are to make a true claim about it?</div><br /> <b>Robert Kirk: <a href="">Zombies</a></b> (html, 8955 words)<br /> <div>Zombies in philosophy are imaginary creatures designed to illuminate problems about consciousness and its relation to the physical world. Unlike the ones in films or witchcraft, they are exactly like us in all physical respects but without conscious experiences: by definition there is ‘nothing it is like’ to be a zombie. Yet zombies behave just like us, and some even spend a lot of time discussing consciousness. Few people, if any, think zombies actually exist. But many hold that they are at least conceivable, and some that they are possible. It seems that if zombies really are possible, then physicalism is false and some kind of dualism is true.</div><br /> <b>Sean Walsh: <a href="*/1Yqcav8pn3VfBTs-LQmml_qpl5rBREamw?e=download">Schnorr randomness and Lévy’s Convergence Theorems</a></b> (pdf, 3912 words)<br /> <div>Our main result so far is a characterization of Schnorr randomness and Martin-Lof randomness in terms of Lévy’s classical upwards convergence theorem in martingale theory. This is interesting philosophically because it suggests that randomness notions should be brought to bear on the interpretation of convergence to the truth results.</div><br /> <b>Alexander Pruss's Blog: <a href="">Will dogs live forever?</a></b> (html, 837 words)<br /> <div>Suppose a dog lives forever. Assuming the dog stays roughly dog-sized, there is only a finite number of configurations of the dog’s matter (disregarding insignificant differences on the order of magnitude of a Planck length, say). &hellip;</div><br /> Articles and blog posts found on 18 March 20192019-03-18T23:59:00Z2019-03-18T23:59:00ZPhilosophical,2019-03-18://<b>Sheldon Goldstein: <a href="">Individualist and Ensemblist Approaches to the Foundations of Statistical Mechanics</a></b> (pdf, 6399 words)<br /> <div>I will contrast the two main approaches to the foundations of statistical mechanics: the individualist (Boltzmannian) approach and the ensemblist approach (associated with Gibbs). I will indicate the virtues of each, and argue that the conflict between them is perhaps not as great as often imagined.</div><br /> <b>Alexander Pruss's Blog: <a href="">Disliking</a></b> (html, 559 words)<br /> <div>It is a staple of sermons on love that we are required to love our neighbor, not like them. I think this is true. But it seems to me that in many cases, perhaps even most cases, _dis_liking people is a moral flaw. &hellip;</div><br /> <b>Alexander Pruss's Blog: <a href="">Σ10 alethic Platonism</a></b> (html, 383 words)<br /> <div>Here is an interesting metaphysical thesis about mathematics: Σ10 alethic Platonism. According to Σ10 alethic Platonism, every sentence about arithmetic with only one unbounded existential quantifier (i.e., an existential quantifier that ranges over all natural numbers, rather than all the natural numbers up to some bound), i.e., every Σ10 sentence, has an objective truth value. &hellip;</div><br /> <b>John Danaher's blog: <a href="">Is there such a thing as moral progress?</a></b> (html, 2513 words)<br /> <div> Picture taken from William Murphy on Flickr We often speak as if we believe in moral progress. We talk about recent moral changes, such as the legalisation of gay marriage, as ‘progressive’ moral changes. &hellip;</div><br /> Articles and blog posts found on 16 March 20192019-03-16T23:59:00Z2019-03-16T23:59:00ZPhilosophical,2019-03-16://<b>Jaco de Swart: <a href="">Closing in on the Cosmos: Cosmology’s Rebirth and the Rise of the Dark Matter Problem</a></b> (pdf, 13582 words)<br /> <div>Influenced by the renaissance of general relativity that came to pass in the 1950s, the character of cosmology fundamentally changed in the 1960s as it became a well-established empirical science. Although observations went to dominate its practice, extra-theoretical beliefs and principles reminiscent of methodological debates in the 1950s kept playing an important tacit role in cosmological considerations. Specifically, belief in cosmologies that modeled a “closed universe” based on Machian insights remained influential. The rise of the dark matter problem in the early 1970s serves to illustrate this hybrid methodological character of cosmological science.</div><br /> <b>Shan Gao: <a href="">Is there density matrix realism?</a></b> (pdf, 2917 words)<br /> <div>In a recent paper [“Quantum Mechanics in a Time-Asymmetric Universe: On the Nature of the Initial Quantum State”, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 2018], Chen uses density matrix realism to solve the puzzles of the arrow of time and the meaning of the quantum state. In this paper, I argue that density matrix realism is problematic, and in particular, it is inconsistent with the latest results about the reality of the wave function.</div><br />