Posts tagged analytic philosophy

Posted 2 years ago

A younger and dapper Derek Parfit, photographed by the late philosopher of mind Susan Hurley at Oxford in the 1980s.

Posted 2 years ago
There are other ways in which, if people understand and think about object-given value-based reasons, things would go better. As Keynes remarked, many politicians act in ways that show them to be slaves of some dead economist. Many economists, we can add, think in ways that show them to be the slaves of some dead philosopher. Like most of the sciences, economics grew out of philosophy. When welfare economics began in the late nineteenth century, economists knew that wealth is only imperfectly correlated with happiness, and that, of these two, it is happiness that matters. For much of the twentieth century, economists forgot these truths. Many economists even believed that interpersonal comparisons of well-being make no sense. Many also believed that, in their professional work, they should be concerned only with facts, not values. Remember the remark: ‘That’s not a value judgment. Everyone accepts it.’ Economists are not chiefly to blame for having these beliefs, since it was philosophers who first claimed that reasons are given only by desires, that all rationality is instrumental, and that no values are facts, because there are no normative truths. Given our increasing powers to destroy or damage the conditions of life on earth, we need to lose these beliefs. It is not wealth that matters, or mere preference-fulfillment, but happiness, justice, and the other things that make our lives worth living.
Derek Parfit, On What Matters, p. 462-463
Posted 3 years ago
Philosophy is a business where one learns to live with spindly brown grass in one’s own yard because neighboring yards are in even worse shape.
Fred Dretske
Posted 3 years ago
I have lived in the pursuit of a vision, both personal and social. Personal: to care for what is noble, for what is beautiful, for what is gentle; to allow moments of insight to give wisdom at more mundane times. Social: to see in imagination the society that is to be created, where individuals grow freely, and where hate and greed and envy die because there is nothing to nourish them. These things I believe, and the world, for all its horrors, has left me unshaken.
Bertrand Russell
Posted 3 years ago

Analytical Marxism? Causation? Area Studies? Collective Action? Generalization? All in one book?

It’s like a dream come true.

Posted 3 years ago
We may thus have no idea whether the existence of the Universe is on the whole good. This ignorance, however, would have little practical importance. Our practical question is:

What ought we to do?

To answer this question, we don’t need to know either whether the past was worth it, or whether the whole of history will have been worth it. Suppose that the past was in itself so bad that, even if the future will be very good, human history will not have been worth it. If that were true, it would have been better if human beings had never existed. But that truth would have no practical implications. If the future would be worth it, we should not give up now.

Derek Parfit, On What Matters, p. 613-614
Posted 3 years ago
Greasings N Salivations................ not a question, just didn't see any other means to contact. Hit me at rather than "answer"

Keen to read that "Out of our Minds" thing by Andy Clark. Loved the expression "blobs of less-celebrated activity". Almost sounds like Goffman in Frame Analysis. I'm hoping it is an opening to philosophical trajectories which are less and less understood these days..... especially perhaps Hegel, a terrain most people only seem to know in the form of vapid caricature.

Oh hell, I'm drinking Jamesons... and can't really write. But thanks for posting that. Here at zeitvox we intend to get our hands more dirty, tilling more philosophical soil soon. Damn if the Jasmine wave outta Tunisia hasn't had us transfixed.
zeitvox asked

Perhaps it’s just because I’ve only been exposed to the ‘vapid caricature,’ but I disagree with Hegel about almost everything. However, Clark’s work is indicative of a trend that I see in analytic philosophy towards more social and less individualistic questions (the works of Burge, Searle, and Goldman are all relevant here). I’m pleased as punch (though maybe not as pleased as you at the moment) about that, and I hope to follow that trend in graduate school and beyond.

For more stuff that might be following that trend, I’d recommend starting with these helpful articles:

Externalism about Mental Content

Social Institutions

Social Epistemology

Feminist Social Epistemology

Analytic Feminism

Speech Acts

As I’ve said before, if it were ever true that analytic philosophy is “bourgeois” or “reactionary,” it sure as hell isn’t the case now.

Posted 3 years ago
This kind of idea is currently being explored by a wave of scientists and philosophers working in the areas known as “embodied cognition” and “the extended mind.” Uniting these fields is the thought that evolution and learning don’t give a jot what resources are used to solve a problem. There is no more reason, from the perspective of evolution or learning, to favor the use of a brain-only cognitive strategy than there is to favor the use of canny (but messy, complex, hard-to-understand) combinations of brain, body and world. Brains play a major role, of course. They are the locus of great plasticity and processing power, and will be the key to almost any form of cognitive success. But spare a thought for the many resources whose task-related bursts of activity take place elsewhere, not just in the physical motions of our hands and arms while reasoning, or in the muscles of the dancer or the sports star, but even outside the biological body — in the iPhones, BlackBerrys, laptops and organizers which transform and extend the reach of bare biological processing in so many ways. These blobs of less-celebrated activity may sometimes be best seen, myself and others have argued, as bio-external elements in an extended cognitive process: one that now criss-crosses the conventional boundaries of skin and skull.

Andy Clark, "Out of Our Brains"

I find externalism, as this view is also sometimes called, a very exciting position in the philosophy of mind.

Posted 3 years ago

As conditions change, we may need to make some changes in the way we think about morality. I have been arguing for one such change. Common-Sense Morality works best in small communities. When there are few of us, if we give to or impose on others great total benefits or harms, we must be affecting other people in significant ways, that would be grounds either for gratitude, or resentment. In small communities, it is a plausible claim that we cannot have harmed others if there is no one with an obvious complaint, or ground for resenting what we have done.

Until this century, most of mankind lived in small communities. What each did could affect only a few others. But conditions have now changed. Each of us can now, in countless ways, affect countless other people. We can have real effects on thousands or millions of people. When these effects are widely dispersed, they may either be trivial, or imperceptible. It now makes a great difference whether we continue to believe that we cannot have greatly harmed or benefited others unless there are people with obvious grounds for resentment or gratitude. …For the sake of small benefits to ourselves, or our families, each of us may deny others much greater total benefits, or impose on others much greater total harms. We may think this permissible because the effects on each of the others will be either trivial or imperceptible. If this is what we think, what we do will often be much worse for all of us.

If we cared sufficiently about effects on others, and changed our moral view, we would solve such problems. It is not enough to ask, ‘Will my act harm other people?’ Even if the answer is No, my act may still be wrong, because of its effects. The effects that it will have when it is considered on its own may not be the only relevant effects. I should ask, ‘Will my act be one of a set of acts that will together harm other people?’ The answer may be Yes. And the harm to others may be great.

Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons, p. 85-86
Posted 3 years ago

In epistemology it can too often seem as if a concern with truth and rationality were wholly disconnected from any concern with power and the social identities of the participants in epistemic practices. For the most part the tradition provides us with a clinically asocial conception of the knowing subject, with the result that epistemology tends to proceed as if socio-political considerations were utterly irrelevant to it. At the other extreme, there are many ‘end-of-epistemology’ and postmodernist theories (treated as either occult tendency or as the new orthodoxy, depending on the company one keeps) who tell us to abandon reason and truth as universal norms on the grounds that they are mere functions of power as it is played out in the drama of epistemic practice. Whereas on the the traditionalist view social power is seen as irrelevant to the rational, on the postmodernist view reason tends to be reduced to social power. One might venture a diagnosis: that both the traditionalist and reductivist camps make the same mistake of thinking it is an all or nothing situation, so that if social power is involved in rational proceedings in any but the must superficial of ways, then it is all up with rationality.

…These characterizations of traditionalist and reductivist extremes are somewhat artificial, of course, although I think they are not quite caricatures. They serve to delineate two contrasting and equally mistaken conceptions of how rational authority and social power are related. I shall present a different conception of the relation, which explains, firstly, why socio-political matters are a proper concern in epistemology; and, secondly, why the very possibility of bringing a politicized critical perspective to bear requires that rational authority and social power be firmly distinguished.

Miranda Fricker, “Rational Authority and Social Power: Towards a Truly Social Epistemology”

(reprinted in Social Epistemology: Essential Readings, p. 55)