January 29, 2010

Seeing the World Through Teleology-Colored Glasses

My previous post on evaluating traditional theistic arguments has generated a lot of discussion! Thanks to Jonathan, Lewis, and Clayton for helping to clarify some issues with my initial presentation. Most of the discussion centered on the teleological argument. I'm not sure if that's just because I presented it first, or because it was the most problematic...Anyway, let me try to make my version of the argument a little more precise, and consider some objections. (The most important objection, I take it, is that we see the world through teleology-colored glasses, as it were; more on that below.) In trying to make the argument the more precise, I will ...
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January 25, 2010

Evaluating the Traditional Arguments for God

Kant famously classified traditional arguments for the existence of a divine being into three categories: ontological, cosmological, and teleological. Very few, if any, philosophers today think that any of these forms of argument is conclusive. However, some philosophers do believe that a cumulative case for the existence of a divine being can be made out from these arguments. Atheist colleagues often respond that "three leaky buckets won't hold water any better than one." However, this reply assumes that the traditional arguments don't show anything at all. Specifically, those who respond this way are often assuming that the arguments are straightforwardly...
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January 20, 2010

A Berkeley-Centric Narrative

Continuing the discussion of the historiography of modern philosophy, I want to consider an alternative narrative. The standard narrative is Kant-centric: the rationalists and empiricists spend a century squabbling, then Kant comes along and figures out what's right and what's wrong with each view, resulting in the Critical Philosophy. The key figures, apart from Kant, are Descartes, the great founder of the rationalists; Locke, the great founder of the empiricists; and Hume who called attention to the severe failings of both schools. (When I took intro to modern at Penn, this is exactly the way it went: these were the...
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January 12, 2010

Alternative Groupings of Early Modern Philosophers

Last month, there was some blog discussion about historiography and teaching methods in early modern philosophy. The standard story is evidently due to Hegel, and continues to be standard despite being unpopular among specialists in history of modern. It groups modern philosophers before Kant as follows:
Dana McCourt, blogging at The Edge of the American West...
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January 11, 2010

Doing What You Believe to be Right vs. Doing What Is Right

Many, perhaps most, people disagree with the majority of my moral beliefs. When I find myself in a situation to advise such people, I often try to persuade them to adopt my moral beliefs, but if this fails I generally advise people to follow their own considered beliefs, rather than mine. Similarly, where there are disagreements on matters of fact, I take it that it is most important to persuade people to believe according to their own considered evaluation of the evidence available to them. Attempts to show that the evidence best supports my own position are secondary. The reason...
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January 5, 2010

How Great is the Threat of Aircraft-Based Terrorism?

In my recent post Preventing Terrorism "At All Costs", I argued that it is necessary to consider the genuine risks of terrorism and balance them against the cost and inconvenience of proposed security measures, rather than merely taking a knee-jerk "anything to make us safer" approach. In the course of the post, I compared the risk of aircraft-based terrorism to other risks we take every day, such as driving on Los Angeles freeways. In a recent post, Big Numbers and Air Travel (HT: Uncommon Priors) on his blog Good Math, Bad Math, Mark Chu-Carroll examines the question of just how risky air travel really is...
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January 1, 2010

Blog Year 2009 in Review

It is now (shockingly) 2010! As such, it is time to write my annual "year in review" post. The year 2009 on this blog saw about 124,000 visits from over 41,000 distinct users. This continues the trend of an annual drop in traffic. Last year, it was suggested that this might be due to less frequent posting. In response, I have tried this year to make at least one post per calendar week. The number of posts in 2009 was 79. This compares to 69 in 2008. That's about 1570 visits per post; a significant drop from past figures. Allow...
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