July 26, 2012

Leibniz, Lewis, and Freedom to Break Laws/Divine Decrees

In his classic paper, "Are We Free to Break the Laws?", David Lewis argued that although we are not free to break the laws of nature, we are free to perform certain actions such that, if we performed them, a law would have been broken. This is supposed to allow compatibilists to secure alternate possibilities: it's true that in order for me to raise my arm right now, either the past or the laws of nature would have to have been different, but it's not true that if I raised my arm right now I would thereby alter the past...
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July 20, 2012

Rule Utilitarianism and Divine Command Theory in Berkeley's Passive Obedience

Berkeley's 1712 Passive Obedience is the closest thing to a systematic work of moral theory he ever wrote, and it isn't very close. The overarching argument can be paraphrased as follows: We have a negative moral duty of passive obedience to government. No negative moral duty admits of any exceptions - i.e. we are morally obligated to fulfill our negative duty in absolutely all cases. Therefore, We are morally obligated passively to obey the government in all cases. The work is concerned primarily with the defense of (1) and (2). (A few terminological clarifications. A negative duty is just a...
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July 7, 2012

"Berkeley's Lockean Religious Epistemology" in JHI

My paper, "Berkeley's Lockean Religious Epistemology" has been accepted to Journal of the History of Ideas. This is a direct descendent of the paper I presented at the International Berkeley Conference in Zurich last summer. The paper examines Berkeley's relationship to Locke's conservative religious critics, with focus on Edward Stillingfleet, John Sergeant, and Peter Browne, and argues that, on the questions about faith and reason which exercised these critics, Berkeley self-consciously and intentionally sides with Locke. In accordance with the journal's self-archiving policy, I have made my final draft of the paper available here.
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July 4, 2012

Happy Higgs Day!

Lauren and I baked a cake in honor of the Higgs boson! We brought it to a 4th of July barbecue where people mostly didn't know what it was... The cake displays the Feynman diagram for the main kind of event on which the discovery was based, namely, gluon fusion production of Higgs with the diphoton decay channel. Here's the diagram in non-edible form: In addition to being decorated, this is a no flour dark chocolate cake, made with 8 eggs, covered in a chocolate ganache, so it interacts very strongly with the Higgs field, and after you eat it...
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Topic(s): Science
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July 3, 2012

The Port-Royalists on Judgment and Other Mental Operations

Locke famously defines judgment, knowledge, etc., in terms of the joining or separating of ideas. It is quite probable that Locke's source for this is the Port-Royal Logic. There are two well-known problems with this view. First, according to this view in order to think that Peter is not living I must mentally separate the idea of Peter from the idea of living, but if I do that then its not clear how this judgment, that Peter is not living, can be a unit which can be, for instance, embedded in complex sentences. Locke makes matters worse by talking about...
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