I’m talking about carbon dioxide scrubbers. This post will just be an extended quote from an excellent book, which is free online:
• David McKay, Sustainable Energy: Without the Hot Air. It will help us begin to understand the economics. …
Suppose we have a group of perfect Bayesian agents with the same evidence who nonetheless disagree. By definition of “perfect Bayesian agent”, the disagreement must be rooted in differences in priors between these peers. …
Biological market theory has in recent years become an important part of the social evolutionist’s toolkit. This article discusses the explanatory potential and pitfalls of biological market theory in the context of big picture accounts of the evolution of human cooperation and morality. I begin by assessing an influential account that presents biological market dynamics as a key driver of the evolution of fairness norms in humans. I argue that this account is problematic for theoretical, empirical, and conceptual reasons. After mapping the evidential and explanatory limits of biological market theory, I suggest that it can nevertheless fill a lacuna in an alternative account of hominin evolution. Trade on a biological marketplace can help explain why norm-based cooperation did not break down when our late-Pleistocene ancestors entered new, challenging social and economic environments.
. As part of the week of posts on R.A.Fisher (February 17, 1890 – July 29, 1962), I reblog a guest post by Stephen Senn from 2012, and 2017. See especially the comments from Feb 2017. ‘Fisher’s alternative to the alternative’
By: Stephen Senn
[2012 marked] the 50th anniversary of RA Fisher’s death. …
This article describes some recent work on ‘direct air capture’ of carbon dioxide—essentially, sucking it out of the air:
• Jon Gerntner, The tiny Swiss company that thinks it can help stop climate change, New York Times Magazine, 12 February 2019. …
This paper is an attempt to articulate and defend a new imperative, Auschwitz survivor Charlotte Delbo’s Il faut donner à voir: “They must be made to see.” Assuming the ‘they’ in Delbo’s imperative is ‘us’ gives rise to three questions: (1) what must we see? (2) can we see it? and (3) why is it that we must? I maintain that what we must see is the reality of evil; that we are by and large unwilling, and often unable, to see the reality of evil; and that if there is to be comprehension of—to say nothing of justice for—the survivors of evil, we nonetheless must.
Is it appropriate to honour artists who have created great works but who have also acted immorally? In this paper, after arguing that honouring involves picking out a person as someone we ought to admire, we present three moral reasons against honouring immoral artists. First, we argue that honouring can serve to condone their behaviour, through the mediums of emotional prioritization and exemplar identification. Second, we argue that honouring immoral artists can generate undue epistemic credibility for the artists, which can lead to an indirect form of testimonial injustice for the artists’ victims. Third, we argue, building on the first two reasons, that honouring immoral artists can also serve to silence their victims. We end by considering how we might respond to these reasons.
For the last day of blogging my book The Emotional Mind, I’m going to skip straight to the last chapter on mental architecture. This is where propose a control theory of the mind as a whole. It is perhaps the most ambitious and speculative chapter of a book that is probably already too ambitious for its own good. …
What is self-defense? Most theorists of self-defense are mainly interested in explaining why and when we are morally justified in defending ourselves from a threat posed by another. The moral questions here are important, not just because self-defense represents an interesting moral conundrum, but because morality, at least in this case, is, or should be, a reliable guide to the law. So theorists of self-defense often start with paradigm cases—the culpable aggressor, the justified aggressor, the innocent aggressor, the innocent threat, and so on—and try to explain moral intuitions about them with the help of moral theory, whether Hohfeldian, utilitarian, Thomist, or other. Progress has been achieved in this way, but, like Uwe Steinhoff, I think it is worth asking the question of what, exactly, is supposed to count as self defense.
Image from Brett Streutker via Flickr
Have you ever met somebody who has it all worked out? Someone who had their life goals identified from a young age and worked their damnedest to achieve them? …
There is a dilemma that arises for a surprising number of ethical views and that is generated by a thesis they share. They all hold that it’s a necessary condition for an act or state of affairs to have an ethical property such as rightness or goodness that it be accompanied by the belief that it has that property. There is an escape from the dilemma that is open to some of these views, but it isn’t open to others; for them the dilemma poses a problem.
Today I will summarise the account of
pain and pleasure provided in The
Emotional Mind. This builds on the account of valent representation that I
outlined yesterday. However, the first thing to note that is although valent
representation is representation in a valent (i.e. …
Yesterday I promised to give an
account of valent representation. This is perhaps the core original idea of the
book (though it has precedents in Ruth Millikan’s ‘pushmi-pullyu’
representations (1995) and Andy Clark’s ‘action oriented representations’ (1997)). …
While there is more to being honest than not lying, becoming the sort of person who does not lie unjustifiably is essential to becoming an honest person. This paper will provide an account of the underlying psychology of a certain kind of lie: namely, morally unjustified lies we tell due to a perceived benefit to ourselves. The proposal is that such lies naturally spring from a personal orientation to the world that centers on self-protection, self-preservation, and self-enhancement. This analysis suggests that a way to refrain from lying is to engage in a relationally-connected way of life that brings about an alternative orientation to the world in which one’s protection, preservation, and reputation are secure apart from lying. An aspect of this new orientation will be the emerging willingness to relinquish control over the perceived disadvantages of honesty. So, on this view, lying (and other forms of dishonesty) is largely unnecessary when the perceived disadvantages are no longer viewed as a threat to one’s secure standing in the world.
What are the demands of religious inquiry? More precisely, what qualities or capacities are required for getting to the truth about religious reality? One natural, if less than illuminating, answer is: the same qualities and capacities necessary for getting to the truth about other, nonreligious features of reality. Which are these? An initial list might include a favorable network of background beliefs, well-functioning cognitive faculties, natural cognitive ability, and the intellectual skills required for good thinking and reasoning. This list, while a reasonable start, is incomplete, even as an account of the demands of non-religious knowledge. For, a person can have the relevant beliefs, faculties, abilities, and skills but be unmotivated to use them, or be disposed to use them in the wrong way, at the wrong time, in the wrong amount, and so on. While intellectually well-equipped in certain respects, this person might be intellectually lazy, hasty, narrow-minded, or cowardly. Therefore, at least one additional item needs to be added to the list, namely, good intellectual character or the possession of intellectual virtues like curiosity, open-mindedness, intellectual carefulness, and intellectual courage.
According to one familiar way of thinking about humility, it is comprised of a certain attitude or orientation toward one’s limitations. Minimally, a humble person is aware of, rather than oblivious to or in denial about, her limitations. But such awareness is not sufficient for humility, for a person could be aware of but chronically irritated by or defensive about her limitations. As such, she would be less than humble. Accordingly, humility also involves accepting or “owning” one’s limitations.
I begin by reviewing two kinds of problem for fallibilism about knowledge. The first is the lottery problem, or the problem of explaining why fallible evidence, though otherwise excellent, is not enough to know that one will lose the lottery. The second kind of problem is Gettier problems. I will argue that both kinds of problem can be resolved if we note an important illocutionary force of knowledge attributions: namely, that when we attribute knowledge to someone we mean to give the person credit for getting things right. Put another way, we imply that the person is responsible for getting things right. The key idea here is not that knowledge requires responsibility in one’s conduct, although that might also be the case, but that knowledge requires responsibility for true belief. Again, to say that someone knows is to say that his believing the truth can be credited to him. It is to say that the person got things right due to his own abilities, efforts and actions, rather than due to dumb luck, or blind chance, or something else.
Over the last few years, the ‘fact-value distinction’ (FVD) has become increasingly unfashionable, due in part to a number of arguments adduced against it. I myself do not believe the FVD can be maintained, and I think there are good arguments against it. But I have my doubts about the cogency of one of the arguments often invoked against it. This argument turns on ‘thick ethical concepts’ (TECs); I will refer to it as the ‘TEC-argument’. The TEC-argument is attractive because it proceeds from an uncontroversial premise—that we grasp and use TECs—to a substantive and controversial conclusion—that something is wrong with the FVD. This sounds too good to be true; and it is. I intend to show that although the TEC-argument is frequently invoked, it has never actually been made.
« The Winding Road to Quantum Supremacy
I’ve of course been following the recent public debate about whether to build a circular collider to succeed the LHC—notably including Sabine Hossenfelder’s New York Times column arguing that we shouldn’t. …
Part 1 of The Implicit Mind makes the case that “implicit attitudes” are mental states that cause us to act in relatively spontaneous ways, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. I offer an unorthodox description of implicit attitudes, distinguish implicit attitudes from other folk psychological kinds, and show how implicit attitudes help to explain paradigmatic cases of spontaneous action. …
This paper defends the use of quasi-experiments for causal estimation in economics against the widespread objection that quasi-experimental estimates lack external validity. The defence is that quasi-experimental replication of estimates can yield defeasible evidence for external validity. The paper then develops a different objection. The stable unit treatment value assumption (SUTVA), on which quasi-experiments rely, is argued to be implausible due to the influence of social interaction effects on economic outcomes. A more plausible stable marginal unit treatment value assumption (SMUTVA) is proposed, but it is demonstrated to severely limit the usefulness of quasi-experiments for economic policy evaluation.
Les éthiques animale et environnementale devraient converger vers les trois jugements de valeur suivants: les écosystèmes naturels impliquent généralement plus de bien que de mal, la prédation dans la nature a tendance à produire des avantages nets positifs et, au moins à l’échelle mondiale, l’élevage animal détruit plus de valeur qu’il n’en crée. Mais les critères écocentriques de l’éthique environnementale et les critères de l’éthique animale fondés sur la sentience pourraient avoir des implications divergentes sur l’effet principal du capitalisme sur le monde: l’effondrement de la nature sauvage dû à la croissance explosive de l’économie humaine. Le sentientisme risque de considérer cet effet comme un gain net, alors que l’écocentrisme le considère sûrement comme une perte nette massive. Tout en soutenant les affirmations ci-dessus, je montre comment elles s’intègrent dans un argument plus large en faveur d’une théorie de la valeur écocentrique plus englobante propre à l’éthique environnementale et contre l’axiologie sentientiste plus étroite de l’éthique animale.
The lesson to be learned from the paradoxical St. Petersburg game and Pascal’s Mugging is that there are situations where expected utility maximizers will needlessly end up (with high probability) poor and on death’s door, and hence we should not be expected utility maximizers. Instead, when it comes to decision-making, for possibilities that have very small probabilities of occurring, we should discount those probabilities down to zero, regardless of the utilities associated with those possibilities.
Here is a suggestive Thomistic line of thought in favor of the essentiality of origins—i.e., the principle that the causes of things are essential to them. Consider two possible cases where a seed is produced in the same apple tree T:
A seed is produced at t because of the tree’s exercise of seed-producing powers together with God’s cooperative exercise of primary causation. …
Followers of this blog will recall my post from October 30, where I solicited ideas about a "Kindness Assignment" for my lower-division philosophy class "Evil". The assignment was to perform ninety minutes of kindness for one or more people, with no formal accountability or reward. …
You know the type. Always quick to blame you for your moral complacency. Always righteously indignant at your moral failings. Always keen to highlight their virtue and your vice. I am talking about moralists, of course. …
Most philosophical discussions of mindreading stay squarely within the
realm of philosophy of psychology. Theorizing about mindreading plays a role in
debates about the modularity of the mind, the representational theory of mind,
language development, the semantics of ordinary language use, etc. …
Gender classifications often are controversial. These controversies typically focus on whether gender classifications align with facts about gender kind membership: Could someone really be nonbinary? Is Chris Mosier (a trans man) really a man? I think this is a bad approach. Consider the possibility of ontological oppression, which arises when social kinds operating in a context unjustly constrain the behaviors, concepts, or affect of certain groups. Gender kinds operating in dominant contexts, I argue, oppress trans and nonbinary persons in this way: they marginalize trans men and women, and exclude nonbinary persons. As a result, facts about membership in dominant gender kinds should not settle gender classification practices.
Informed consent is currently treated as the core of bioethics. In
clinical practice, the doctrine of informed consent rose to dominance
during the course of the 20th century. It replaced a medical ethos
founded on trust in physicians’ decisions, often on the
assumption that “doctor knows best”, with an ethos that
sought to put patients in charge of their own care. In medical
research, the influential Nuremberg Code responded to the cruelty of
Nazi experiments stipulating: “The voluntary consent of the
human subject is absolutely essential”. But why should we
require informed consent, e.g. when it comes at a cost to the
Philodemus of Gadara (ca. 110–ca. 30 BCE) was an Epicurean
philosopher and epigrammatist who, having studied in the Epicurean
school at Athens when it was led by Zeno of Sidon (c. 150–c. 75
BCE), moved to Italy, probably in the 70s BCE. There he may
have lived in the Greek town of Naples, and perhaps also in Rome. Some
of Philodemus’ poems, which were praised by Cicero, were
preserved in the Palatine Anthology, and these were all that
was known of his writing until the discovery in the
mid-18th century of a trove of papyrus manuscripts in the
ruins of a grand villa in Herculaneum, buried by the eruption of
Vesuvius in 79 CE.