June 29, 2011

A Short Story About Berkeley's Theory of Vision

On the plane back from Zurich last week I read a very interesting story, "He Who Shapes," by Roger Zelazny. This work won the Nebula for best novella in 1965. The story centers around essentially the same piece of technology depicted in the recent movie Inception: a device that allows two people to share a dream, with one of them, the 'shaper', in control of the dream world. However, unlike Inception, in which the technology is used primarily for corporate espionage, in "He Who Shapes" the device is used for psychotherapy. This would be interesting enough, but it gets better:...
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June 13, 2011

Omnipotence and Failure

The famous Stone Paradox asks, 'can an omnipotent being make a stone so heavy he can't lift it?' A simpler question, and one which I think makes the issues clearer, is, 'can an omnipotent being fail?' If a being can fail, then there is something that being doesn't have the power to do, namely, whatever it is it can fail to do. If a being can't fail, then there is something it doesn't have the power to do, namely, to fail. Now, we sometimes have chancy powers/abilities, as, for instance, in J. L. Austin's famous example, the power to sink...
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June 10, 2011

What Version of Locke's Essay Did Berkeley Read?

Locke's Essay went through several revisions in the author's lifetime, some of them quite substantive philosophically. The first edition was 1689, Locke died in 1704 and the posthumous fifth edition appeared in 1706. Locke seems to have had at least some hand in the revisions made between editions 4 and 5. Because some of the changes are substantive, I've sometimes wondered what version of the Essay Berkeley was working from. We know that it was required reading when Berkeley was studying for his BA at Trinity between 1700 and 1704. Today I was reading Berman's George Berkeley: Idealism and the...
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June 9, 2011

2011 International Berkeley Conference

The program for the 2011 International Berkeley Conference, to be held in Zurich a few weeks from now, is now up. I'll be presenting a paper called "Berkeley's Lockean Religious Epistemology," and there are a number of other interesting talks on the schedule from several well-known and less well-known Berkeley scholars. The organizers solicited abstracts from the speakers for the web-site, so I'm sure those will appear shortly.
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June 6, 2011

Philosophers' Carnival 126

Welcome to the 126th Philosophers' Carnival! The Philosophers' Carnival is a regular round-up of blog posts related to the academic discipline of philosophy. Our first exhibit is David Fryman's, Is God Necessary for Morality? at The Bennett Commentary. David argues that most disputes on this question are purely verbal - that religious morality is a fundamentally different notion from secular morality, and the former, of course, relies on God, while the latter does not. Next in line, Katja Grace wonders whether running computer simulations of yourself can make you more likely to win the lottery at Meteuphoric. Luke Meuhlhauser...
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June 2, 2011

Miracles and Competence

I'm currently thinking about miracles and laws of nature, because I am working on revising this paper on the subject. Also on my mind is a paper of mine called "Divine Language, Unperceived Objects, and Berkeley's Response to Skepticism" which I will be presenting at the International Berkeley Society group session at the Eastern APA in December. It occurred to me that these two subjects of thought interact in an interesting way. In the Berkeley paper, I argue that we should take quite seriously Berkeley's claim that the laws of nature form the grammar of a language (PHK 108-110), and...
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