April 12, 2015

What Science-Fiction is About

The Hugo Award is one of the longest-running and most prestigious awards in Science-Fiction. As some readers may by now be aware there is a major controversy regarding this year's award process: a right-wing group organized a campaign against 'social justice' inspired nominees and was mostly successful in getting their own slate nominated. Some people have called for "No Award" votes in all categories. It's always hard to say what (or whom) an award like this is supposed to be for, and that's part of what the so-called 'Sad Puppies' group says this controversy is about. However, given the group's...
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March 25, 2015

"Matter, God, and Nonsense: Berkeley's Polemic Against the Freethinkers in the Three Dialogues"

I have posted a new draft to my writings page, "Matter, God, and Nonsense: Berkeley's Polemic Against the Freethinkers in the Three Dialogues". The final version of the paper is expected to appear in Berkeley's Three Dialogues: New Essays, ed. Stefan Storrie (Oxford University Press). In the meantime, comments are welcome.
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February 18, 2015

Machine Consciousness in "Supertoys Last All Summer Long"

I've gotten myself scheduled to teach an interdisciplinary honors college seminar on science-fiction and philosophy in the coming fall. I've started working on a syllabus, which means I have the enjoyable task of looking through a lot of science-fiction stories to think about which ones provide the most interesting explorations of philosophical questions. Along the way, I noticed something very interesting about Brian Aldiss's "Supertoys Last All Summer Long". This 1969 short story was the basis for the 2001 movie A. I. Artificial Intelligence, which was begun by Kubrick and finished by Spielberg after Kubrick's death. According to Aldiss's introduction...
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January 1, 2015

Blog Year 2014

It's 2015 already, and as the new year starts it appears to have been more than 2 months since I posted anything here. I did a lot of 'serious' writing in 2014, and this is probably part of the reason why I've done less blog writing - only 29 posts, and most of those in the first three months of the year. (This covers the tail-end of my blogging about The Puzzle of Existence, and also the lull between submission and defense of my dissertation.) Despite the light blogging, traffic is up significantly from last year with nearly 590,000 visits...
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October 20, 2014

"How Berkeley's Gardener Knows his Cherry Tree"

I have posted a new draft, "How Berkeley's Gardener Knows his Cherry Tree" to my writings page. As always, comments and criticisms are welcome.
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October 1, 2014

Theisms, Metaphysical and Religious

Both in the classical tradition and in recent analytic philosophy, much of philosophical theology is concerned with what we might call metaphysical theism, that is, with the notion of God as a metaphysical theory which explains certain facts about the world. This is most visible in the cosmological argument for contingency, where the ability of the theistic hypothesis to explain something that (allegedly) cannot be explained (or explained equally well) without God is given as a reason for belief in God. A lot of our theorizing about God (in this metaphysical mode) then has to do with the question of...
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September 1, 2014

July 25, 2014

Regarding All Those Possible Arnaulds

One of the main topics of the Leibniz-Arnauld correspondence is the question how, on Leibniz's theory, it can be true that Arnauld might have had children and been a physician rather than being a celibate theologian (see Arnauld's letter of May 13, 1686). One of the curious things that happens in this discussion is that both Leibniz and Arnauld start talking about the many Adams and many Judases and many Arnaulds in the various possible worlds, with Leibniz insisting that none of them is identical to the actual Adam/Judas/Arnauld. In that May 13 letter, Arnauld even speaks of 'several mes',...
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July 12, 2014

"Berkeley's Lockean Religious Epistemology" in JHI

My paper "Berkeley's Lockean Religious Epistemology" has now (finally!) appeared in Journal of the History of Ideas! In accord with the journal's self-archival policy, I have removed the online preprint I had posted; apologies to those without subscriptions. I will put the official version of the paper up after the one year embargo has expired.
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May 12, 2014

April 29, 2014

A Supreme Court Paradox!

In the current version of the Supreme Court decision Octane Fitness v. Icon Health & Fitness up at Cornell's Legal Information Institute, footnote 1 reads "Justice Scalia joins this opinion except as to footnotes 1-3." This is not quite a Liar Paradox, but close. Whether the view attributed to Scalia is consistent depends on some interpretive questions: does Scalia merely refrain from affirming the content of footnotes 1-3, or does he actively reject them? Does he reject each of the footnotes individually, or only the conjunction of them? If he actively rejects each of footnotes 1-3 individually, then which part...
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April 23, 2014

Hudson on Skeptical Theism and Divine Deception

The forthcoming Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion is full of interesting stuff! So far, I specially recommend Bishop and Perszyk on alternative conceptions of God and Dougherty and Pruss on apparently unjustified evils as 'anomalies' (in the philosophy of science sense). I have not yet read the last four articles. Here, I want to comment on Hud Hudson's "The Father of Lies?" (This post got longer than I intended, so I've added sub-headings. If you get bored in the middle, please skip to the end. I've also bolded important parts to make for easier skimming.) Hudson's Argument Hudson's central...
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March 26, 2014

March 21, 2014

Dissertation Defended!

You may call me 'doctor' now.
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March 19, 2014

Quote of the Day: Bayle on the Skeptical Consequences of Multi-Location

[If multi-location is possible] it follows that neither you nor I can be certain whether we are distinct from other men, or whether we are at this moment in the seraglio of Constantinople, in Canada, in Japan, and in every city of the world, under different conditions in each place. Since God does nothing in vain, would he create many men when one, created in various places and possessing different qualities according to the places, would suffice?

- Pierre Bayle, Historical and Critical Dictionary (1697), tr. Popkin, s.v. "Pyrrho," note B


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