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Eric Schwitzgebel
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My father, Kirkland R. Gable (born Ralph Schwitzgebel) died Sunday. Here are some things I want you to know about him. Of teaching, he said that authentic education is less about textbooks, exams, and technical skills than about moving students "toward a bolder comprehension of what the world and themselves... Continue reading
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by Eric Schwitzgebel 10. Listicles destroy the narrative imagination and subtract the sublimity from your gaze. 9. The numerosities of nature never equal the numerosity of human fingers. 8. The spherical universe becomes pretzel sticks upon a brief conveyor. 7. In every listicle, opinion subverts fact, riding upon it as... Continue reading
Zury: Maybe so! Sounds a little like the theodicy that "I have faith that it all serves a greater purpose that we don't understand", transhumanist version.
Charles: That seems right. I don't think Lewis's view fits those criteria, however. And Dretske's view certainly does not. In his 1995 book, he gives exactly the kind of explanation you ask for at the end of the first paragraph (how successfully is another question). Basically: representational content depends on learning history and evolutionary history; consciousness depends on representational content. The kind of "dependence" here is not causal but metaphysical. Hence the Swampcases. On your second paragraph: Of course what you say is more intuitively reasonable. But the point of the example is to display that on Lewis's and maybe Dretske's views there would be pain relief even without such an intuitively reasonable mechanism for it.
Eric W., I've emailed you to continue discussion. The Tyrant starts out normal (at least on the effects-of-pain side), but there's at least one phase in which he is "mad". I can see now that my post was too brief and unclear for this complex story and set of issues -- though hopefully the basic idea still comes through that if part of pain's supervenience is current but non-local events, they some Tyrranical strategy for pain-relief ought to work.
As I read it, kvetching is part of the typical causal role of pain. Why wouldn't it be? And the madman's brain state does not at all occupy the typical causal role of pain. Lewis says that pain has no tendency to make the madman groan or writhe, and that he is not in the least motivated to prevent pain or get rid of it. Kvetching isn't specifically mentioned, but I read the case as excluding it. Do you see something in the set-up that suggests otherwise?
Ah, but he won't kvetch, will he? And whether the experience would continue to be unpleasant is difficult to assess, if there really is no kvetching. I'm not sure Lewis's view is detailed enough to have a specific commitment on that. Part of my project in the piece is to push on the view enough to make vivid how strange and sketchy it really is (which doesn't imply false).
by Eric Schwitzgebel According to a broad class of materialist views, conscious experiences -- such as the experience of pain -- do not supervene on the local physical state of the being who is having those conscious experiences. Rather, they depend in part on the past evolutionary or learning history... Continue reading
Don, how horrible about your wife! It is very much easier to think that life is fair when all is well and you're riding high. When things come crashing down, some people might find comfort in the thought that there is some transcedental rectification, but from a secular perspective that can sound hollow or even insulting. That pattern of thinking is an important part of the psychology of philosophy here -- the psychology of the belief in moral order. Developmental psychologists have found origins of it in early childhood ("just-world thinking" and "immanent justice"). I think such thinking is simultaneously irrational, beautifully aspirational, and objectionably affirmatory of the status quo. (Still can't hang all that together in my mind.)
Clement: Right, there are plenty of precedents for the moral order view (or at least partial versions of it) in the west, though the issue has somewhat slipped out of fashion. Measuring happiness and measuring morality are both very tricky (and I'm not sure that happiness or unhappiness is exactly what the moral order view requires; that's an extra argumentative step). I'm with Dan Haybron on the difficulty of measuring happiness. And we're nowhere close to developing the moralometer! So it's one of those tricky issues that requires broad thinking about a wide range of considerations both philosophical and psychological -- exactly the kind of issue I've always loved.
Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Clement and Christy! Clement: Some political philosophy is directed toward a vision of increasing the the moral order of society; but (a.) political philosophy tends to be normative and I'm more interested in the empirical question, and (b.) political arrangements, at least narrowly conceived, are only a piece of the picture. Much of the picture is more psychological and interpersonal: How does cheating on one's spouse tend to make one feel? Are jerks happy? I find myself attracted to a Confucian vision that recognizes some truth in Mencius but also perhaps emphasizes Xunzi's picture of aiming toward a political and personal philosophy artificially structured toward increasing moral order. Christy: The two pieces you mention seem to fit together quite naturally! Here's how I see them fitting: Most people deserve far better than they get, but society is structured so that the worst tyrannize the rest. I'm not saying that's right; but it's one way to hang together your commonsense constraint with an immoral world order.
by Eric Schwitzgebel Let's say the world is morally ordered if good things come to those who act morally well and bad things come to those who act morally badly. Moral order admits of degrees. We might say that the world is perfectly morally ordered if everyone gets exactly what... Continue reading
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Aaron: Thanks for your thoughtful comment! I agree that profit was probably necessary in Krakow. Bruennlitz was highly unprofitable. But the question I was hoping to focus on was how Schindler should have thought about that money he had at the end -- whether to take it or redistribute it back to the workers. I think the natural reading of the film is that Schindler leaves not as wholly penniless (he has a fancy car and a gold pin) but also not as carting away trade-goods and sacks of diamonds. Oskar and Emilie are shown jamming clothes into suitcases, as though these were their last belongings, rather than organizing goods to take with them. The truck, if one even notices it, is somewhat confusing -- a remnant of the Keneally version that was kept, I think, despite the fact that it doesn't quite fit with the Spielberg version.
Interesting points, Dan. I do think that it's better to think of Schindler's money as profits from slave labor than as something he squeezed from the Nazis, though in a sense of course it was both. (If I employed slave labor, for example, to sell overpriced items to rich people, it wouldn't be justified for me to keep it since it was only money I got from the rich.) So it's not clear the the money was rightly Schindler's to dispose of. Would the Jews have freely agreed to let him keep it? Maybe so, but hard to know. Whether Schindler or the Jews were safer after German surrender is also not entirely clear, especially if we assume that Schindler would have kept the letter from his workers and some moderate amount of money for bribes and travel. It was a chaotic period -- lots of people died after the war, and the Schindler Jews were mostly homeless and impoverished, in an environment with still much anti-Semitism.
Thanks, Eric. Kind of a compromise between my options 1 & 2 -- seems in the ballpark of reasonable. But part of me is still fighting between the hardline option 1 and the gracious (?) option 3!
by Eric Schwitzgebel Today I'm thinking about Schindler's truck and what it suggests about the moral psychology of one of the great heroes of the Holocaust. Here's a portrayal of the truck, in the background of a famous scene from Schindler's List: [image source] Oskar Schindler, as you probably know,... Continue reading
Well... yeah. But at least we love Ursula!
I read his *2312* last summer -- terrific book! Sadly, Kim Stanley Robinson didn't seem to make anyone's list of ten.
Haven't read "Fat Farm"! Thanks for the suggestion.
Yes, Tiptree is on the longer list, recommended by two (Rachael Briggs and Eric Kaplan).
Carl: Yes! I hope that more submissions will trickle in. If so, I'll spin them out in batches of four on my blog and update the mega-lists. I'd love to see the lists get longer, both incorporating a broader range of works and bringing more authors/works into the multiply-cited category. (Email me.)
Charles: Card made the longer list. I agree that Ender's Game is terrific.
by Eric Schwitzgebel ... here! This mega-list of about 360 recommendations is compiled from the lists I've been rolling out on The Splintered Mind over the past several weeks. Thirty-four professional philosophers and two prominent science fiction / speculative fiction (SF) authors with graduate training in philosophy each contributed a... Continue reading
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