June 6, 2011

This Post is Old!

The post you are reading is years old and may not represent my current views. I started blogging around the time I first began to study philosophy, age 17. In my view, the point of philosophy is to expose our beliefs to rational scrutiny so we can revise them and get better beliefs that are more likely to be true. That's what I've been up to all these years, and this blog has been part of that process. For my latest thoughts, please see the front page.

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 of Less Wrong offers criticisms of the philosophical practice of conceptual analysis.

The University of Otago announces a rare book exhibition on the history of experimental philosophy. By today's standards, it is unclear how much of this qualifies as philosophy, and how much as something more like natural science, but the organizers do "claim that experimental philosophy went beyond natural philosophy," and besides, as an early modernist myself, I couldn't resist passing this along.

Kadri Vihvelin discusses the inability of time travelers to kill their infant selves.

Tristan Haze of Sprachlogik distinguishes three varieties of semantic externalism.

The Liar Paradox, at Enigmania contains an argument for the conclusion that the truth value of the Liar sentence ("this sentence is false") is vague. The author describes this as a 'commonsense' solution, but I'm not at all convinced that commonsense allows for vague truth values. (Of course, it's not as though any of the other responses to the Paradox are particularly commonsensical.)

At Only a Game, Chris Bateman has an interview with philosopher Stephen Yablo on fictionalism.

Avery Archer of The Space of Reasons discusses David Velleman's theory of desire.

And last, but not least, my own contribution is a discussion of the role of true and immutable natures in Descartes's ontological argument.

That's it for this installment! The next carnival will be held on June 27 at Icthus 77.

Posted by Kenny at June 6, 2011 1:11 PM
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I've only just got to read this, but I'm wondering why you are unsure that common sense allows for vague truth-values. People do say things like "true enough" and "very true", as though truth was a matter of degree. We even talk of half-truths. We try to make things clear, and so get to propositions, which are either true or else false (although there is some debate about that). But ordinarily things are less clear. And why would the ordinary lack of clarity lead to fuzzy truth-values? I know that you have some good reason for being unsure about common-sense ascriptions of truth allowing us to say that a few very strange statements are vaguely true, in the sense of being about as true as not. But I can't guess what it is.

Posted by: enigMan at June 18, 2011 2:03 AM

I think when we say something is 'sort of true' or 'half true' we usually mean that it is true but misleading. Especially in the half-truth case. If someone's statement is a 'half-truth' we usually mean that what was said is true, so far as it goes, but in order to get a full picture of what is going on more needs to be said. In this case, what was said is half of the truth. In other cases, we might mean that half of what was said was true.

At any rate, my own intuitions just lean very strongly toward epistemic or linguistic theories of vagueness, and I don't think that's been educated or indoctrinated into me; I think that according to common sense, the world is perfectly determinate.

Posted by: Kenny at June 18, 2011 2:23 PM

I agree that we usually mean such things, but common sense tells us that there are no hard and fast rules about such matters. I share your intuitions, but doesn't common sense also allow for arbitrary exceptions? I disagree that common sense says that the world is perfectly determinate. Or rather, it does, but only in the way that it says that the world is flat, and that space is Euclidean. Common sense also defers to the views of geographers and physicists; and similarly, it knows that we should only get perfect determinateness from perfectly definite predicates. Surely common sense knows that most predicates are only as definite as they need to be. Surely that is obvious in the case of 'blue' for example. Does common sense really say that there is a spectral line between the colours that you would now call 'blue' and those that you would call 'not blue'?

Posted by: enigMan at August 1, 2011 10:13 AM

It's hard to say exactly what is meant by 'common sense', but I don't think common sense defers to geographers; I think it's just that most people trust geographers more than they trust common sense. And yes, I do think common sense says that every color is either determinately blue or determinately non-blue. It might, however, turn out that common sense is inconsistent on this point.

Posted by: Kenny at August 2, 2011 1:29 PM

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