October 7, 2016

Becoming a Political Kantian

This morning I've decided to take a break from contemplating the fact that my country is seriously considering giving the nuclear codes to a narcissistic, incompetent, hateful, con artist orangutang to contemplate politics in a more theoretical fashion, without reference to the present election. I've always had strongly deontological moral intuitions—that is, I find it most natural to think of ethics as primarily involving rules we have to follow rather than outcomes we have to promote. Further, before I started studying philosophy, I had broadly libertarian political views. It's not surprising, then, that when I first encountered Nozick's Kantian defense...
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September 30, 2016

"Berkeley on Unperceived Objects and the Publicity of Language"

Completing my summer research goals (only slightly late!), I've posted another new draft to my writings page, "Berkeley on Unperceived Objects and the Publicity of Language". The paper argues that when Berkeley's language of nature theory is interpreted in light of his own philosophy of language it produces a solution to the notorious problem of the existence of objects presently unperceived by humans.
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September 29, 2016

Teaching Like Socrates?

The Daily Nous heap of links today contained the image to the right (click for a larger view) which appears to be a letter to the editor of some newspaper by Simon Blackburn. I found the letter interesting and amusing, and it has something of a point, but it would be a big mistake to use this point to exempt philosophy departments from broader university conversations about pedagogy. The fact is, first, although the central pedagogical idea most associated with Socrates—that we teach by raising questions that cause students to re-examine their views—is certainly sound, this is really only the...
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September 28, 2016

"What Descartes Doubted, Berkeley Denied, and Kant Endorsed"

I've posted a new draft, "What Descartes Doubted, Berkeley Denied, and Kant Endorsed," to my writings page. This is actually a rewrite of a much older paper; the original idea pre-dates my dissertation. In it, I argue (among other things) that Kant's fundamental complaint against Berkeley is that Berkeley's empiricism leaves him with cognitive resources too sparse for the construction of a genuine world. In particular, Kant targets Berkeley's rejection of the application of the concept of substance to perceived objects. Of course, in Language and Structure I argue that Berkeley is aware of these sorts of problems and develops...
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September 15, 2016

"Counterpossible Dependence" in Faith and Philosophy

My paper, "Counterpossible Dependence and the Efficacy of the Divine Will" has been accepted by Faith and Philosophy. This paper is a sort of companion to my Sanders prize essay: it applies the ideas about God and grounding in that essay to solve some problems about divine omnipotence. The preprint is available here.
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September 5, 2016

"Foundational Grounding" wins Sanders Prize

I was informed today that my paper "Foundational Grounding and the Argument from Contingency" (draft here) has been awarded the Sanders Prize in in Philosophy of Religion. This means (among other things) that a (lightly revised) version will appear in the forthcoming volume of Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion.

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August 26, 2016

Shipping Books Internationally

I have now arrived at my new position in Ireland, and am pleased to report that my books have also arrived more-or-less unscathed. I expended a good deal of time and energy over the summer figuring out how best to transport my books. In the end, the actual process of shipping them was not very difficult or frustrating; it was the lack of any good information on how to go about it that was the problem. Hence, this blog post. First, people may advise you to ship books by a freight service since they are so heavy. Generally, this only...
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Topic(s): My Life
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July 14, 2016

On Christianity and Donald Trump

It's been a long time since I've written anything about politics, religion, or the intersection of the two that was not directly connected to my philosophical work, but I feel the need to say something about the present US election. Perhaps I should have overcome my reluctance to say this during the primary season, but I didn't, so here it is now. Years ago, when I was a student leader of a campus Christian group back at Penn, I was constantly fighting against the idea, held by a certain vocal group of my peers, that being a Christian meant supporting...
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May 3, 2016

Two Definitions of 'Empiricism'

In traditional tellings of the history of early modern philosophy, the school of British empiricists - the Locke-Berkeley-Hume triumvirate - is seen as according foundational status to the Aristotelian principle, "nothing in the intellect which was not first in the senses." This is, of course, given new formulations in terms of the modern 'Way of Ideas'. Their philosophical systems, so the story goes, are built on this foundation. However, there is another meaning of 'empiricism' that is more common in the early modern period. This notion goes back to the ancient 'empirics,' a school of physicians who eschewed theorizing in...
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May 2, 2016

Philosophy and 'Depth'

There is a kind of philosophy, or pseudo-philosophy, whose principal aim is to create a certain feeling of 'depth,' often without very much real content. Of course, this phenomenon is hardly restricted to philosophy, nor is it even, I think, a very widespread feature of the academic discipline of philosophy. Still, I call it a kind of philosophy or pseudo-philosophy because this feeling of 'depth' or profundity is very closely connected to how the words 'philosophy' and 'philosophical' are often used in common (i.e., non-academic) parlance. But is this feeling of 'depth' always purely illusory? Can there be something genuinely...
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April 30, 2016

Quote of the Day: Mechanical Observations? Yum!

Hydrophilus. Mechanical Observations (said you Pyrophilus?) yea that's your Diana, you and the world of late so much admire: your Bacon and your Boyle, or your Bacon well boil'd is so much in fashion with you, that scarce any other Dish (although never so good) prepared after an old fashion, will go down with you. - W. Simpson, Philosophical Dialogues Concerning the Principles of Natural Bodies: Wherein the Principles of the Old and New Philosophy are Stated, and the New Demonstrated, More Agreeable to Reason, From Mechanical Experiments and its Usefulness to the Benefit of Man-kind (1677), 5 I was...
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April 29, 2016

Quote of the Day: The Tale of the Aristotelian Clock-Mender

I will not undertake to compare the new Philosophy with the old, but instead thereof will tell you a tale. There was a certain Husbandman who occupied a Farme with an antient mansion-house standing in the fields remote from any Town, where there was an old iron Clock in a large wooden frame, which had been a long while out of kelter, and because he was much troubled to know how the time passed, that he might order his business accordingly, he resolved to get his Clock repaired, and while he was considering where to finde a man able...
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April 23, 2016

Quote of the Day: Materialist Poetry

as for my opinion of Atoms, their figures and motions, (if any such things there be) I will refer you to my Book of Poems, out of which give me leave to repeat these following lines, containing the ground of my opinion of Atomes: All Creatures, howsoe're they may be nam'd Are of long, square, flat, or sharp Atomes fram'd Thus several figures several tempers make, But what is mixt, doth of the four partake. The onely cause, why things do live and die, 'S according as the mixed Atomes lie. Thus life, and death, and young, and old, Are...
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April 9, 2016

Quote of the Day: Cavendish on Philosophical Disagreement

I have not contradicted those Authors [modern philosophers] in any thing, but what concerns and is opposite to my opinions; neither do I any thing, but what they have done themselves, as being common amongst them to contradict each other: which may as well be allowable, as for Lawyers to plead at the Barr in opposite Causes. For as Lawyers are not Enemies to each other, but great Friends, all agreeing from the Barr, although not at the Barr: so it is with Philosophers who make their Opinions as their Clients, not for Wealth, but for Fame, and therefore have...
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March 30, 2016

"Arnauld's Verbal Distinction" in History and Philosophy of Logic

I've just heard that "Arnauld's Verbal Distinction between Ideas and Perceptions" will appear in History and Philosophy of Logic. It is unfortunate that Arnauld doesn't get more attention; I'm trying to do something about that!
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