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Eric Schwitzgebel
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Cool -- thanks for all the kind words and suggestions, folks! I've been thinking about designing a science fiction and philosophy class, maybe using Susan Schneider's anthology, but I'm not sure how I'd go about it. I like my classes to have a thematic unity and narrative arc, and I'm a little worried it would become piece of sci-fi, philosophical issue, another piece of sci-fi, unrelated philosophical issue, etc.
Thanks for the kind words, Eric and Jon. Sounds like an awesome class, Jon. And thanks for the links. Speaking of short horror with a philosophical edge, have you read Neil Gaiman's collection, Smoke and Mirrors?
Weird Tales, one of the best and oldest horror and dark fantasy magazines, has just launched a new series of ultra-short flash fiction (under 500 words), Flashes of Weirdness. To inaugurate the series, they've chosen a piece of mine -- which is now my second publication in speculative fiction. My... Continue reading
Thanks for those suggestions, all! It will give me a good excuse to go watch some Star Trek -- used to be a big fan, but it has been awhile.
Thanks for the comments, folks! Carlo: There are different variants, of course, of all these positions. All I really want to suggest here is that the issue is a serious one to consider if artificial consciousness becomes possible, and that some of our favorite views might have surprising consequences. Catarina: I don't recall that episode! By "classic" do you mean Kirk era?
We might soon be creating monsters, so we'd better figure out our duties to them. Robert Nozick's Utility Monster derives 100 units of pleasure from each cookie she eats. Normal people derive only 1 unit of pleasure. So if our aim is to maximize world happiness, we should give all... Continue reading
Patrick: Thanks for that. The latter half of what you say matches my limited knowledge of the Indian tradition. On the question of free will in the tradition, I'm completely ignorant, though what you say seems plausible at least for the dominant strands. The roll of the dice is an interesting question. In recreational games in general, I think it helps relieve the pressure of knowing that if you lose it's your own bad choices (contrast the stress of chess or recent diceless German board games). So maybe in this context, it allows the player to give herself over to having the rewards and punishments, experiencing both sides, while personally not being to blame. One thought: Although the roll is random relative to the player it is not random relative to the *pawn* and simply reflect the pawn's free choice?
Patrick, Allan, CJ: Very cool about Snakes & Ladders -- I should have looked more into the history of it before posting! Of course, it's totally karma. Allan: I agree that there are several different ways in which prudence and morality can blend together, and that maybe it plays out differently for the ancient Greeks than for the medieval Christians than for the ancient Indians, etc. CJ: The seven deadly sins are treated as moral, but the interesting fact about them is that they seem also very prudential. Consider gluttony: It's not clear where the moral ends and the prudential begins. Thinking of gluttony itself as bad, without focusing on its harmfulness to others, invites a conceptualization of virtue that doesn't draw the sharp lines between moral and prudential that we're often now inclined to draw. (Playing upside-down we ignore the ladder on square 1.) Mark: I guess so!
Chutes and Ladders, if you didn't know, isn't just a game of chance. It's a game of virtue. At the bottom of each ladder a virtuous action is depicted, and at the top we see its reward. Above each chute is a vice, at the bottom natural punishment. The world... Continue reading
Thanks, Mark! I'm inclined to agree with all of your remarks. I think it would be very interesting to put them to scientific test. And I bet that if we did so, we'd get some surprises.
I'm thinking (again) about beeping people during aesthetic experiences. The idea is this. Someone is reading a story, or watching a play, or listening to music. She has been told in advance that a beep will sound at some unexpected time, and when the beep sounds, she is to immediately... Continue reading
@ Chris: I agree, but I didn't want to stack the deck too much on the upside! @ Shecky: Let's try it together sometime. @ Carolyn: Well, you weight things rather differently than I! But as long as you're applying decision theory with a column for the dream-possibility, I'm good with your keeping your feet on the ground.
I don't often attempt to fly when walking across campus, but yesterday I gave it a try. I was going to the science library to retrieve some books on dreaming. About halfway there, in the wide-open mostly-empty quad, I spread my arms, looked at the sky, and added a leap... Continue reading
You know the trolley problems. A runaway train trolley will kill five people ahead on the tracks if nothing is done. But -- yay! -- you can intervene and save those five people! There's a catch, though: your intervention will cost one person's life. Should you intervene? Both philosophers' and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2013 at Experimental Philosophy
You know the trolley problems, of course. An out-of-control trolley is headed toward five people it will kill if nothing is done. You can flip a switch and send it to a side track where it will kill one different person instead. Should you flip the switch? What if, instead... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2013 at Experimental Philosophy
(by Alan T. Moore and Eric Schwitzgebel) What do you usually experience when you read? Some people say that they generally hear the words of the text in their heads, either in their own voice or in the voices of narrator or characters; others say they rarely do this. Some... Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2013 at Experimental Philosophy
I've been at UC Riverside for 16 years. We have always been egalitarian about teaching assignments.
Interesting reflections, Catarina -- and a telling anecdote! I'm inclined to think, with Dan Weiskopf, that it would be a "terminological land grab" if the reference of "x-phi" becomes co-extensive with just empirically-informed, "naturalized" philosophy. The label is only usefully narrow, I think, if it combines (a.) actually conducting empirical research oneself with (b.) a deep immersion in the philosophical literature and the advancement of that literature as one's primary aim, with philosophers as one's primary intended audience. (a) excludes your average philosopher of science and empirically-informed philosopher of mind, and (b) excludes your average empirical scientist who has something to say about spacetime or concept nativism but who really isn't fully embedded in the philosophical literature.
Thanks for the suggestion, Carolyn. I haven't seen that one!
Terrific post! I've long had in the back of my mind writing up a post on this myself, starting from my aversion to movies like "Good Will Hunting" and "Ratatouille", which play up the laborless, supportless genius myth. I suspect such movies, in part, fulfill self-exculpatory fantasies for the viewers' own failures. What films might be the anti-"Good Will Hunting"?
John, I agree those would all be cool to do. I'm also working on a measure of "discussion" as opposed to mere mention, but there are some technical challenges!
Catarina, thanks for the interesting reflections on my post! I don't really disagree too much, I think, with most of what you said, but I might distinguish "superficial" from "uninformed and sloppy" and hang onto the superficial. The "deep" has always made me suspicious. I disagree more with some of the comments above. For the benefit of any commenters assume I am simply a lazy analytic philosopher who doesn't want to read historical figures (if any are reading this far down the comments page): Although the history of philosophy is not my primary specialization, I have published a couple of papers in the field ("Zhuangzi's Attitude Toward Language and His Skepticism", 1996; and "Mencius, Xunzi, Hobbes, and Rousseau on Human Nature and Moral Education" 2007) as well as a couple of papers on the history of psychology. In my non-historical work I try to keep as much of the history of philosophy in view as I can manage -- for example in "The Crazyist Metaphysics of Mind" I have substantial discussions of Descartes and Reid and passing references to a wide range of philosophers across history. I believe that one of the things that prevents analytic philosophers from making better use of the history of philosophy to inform and contextualize their views is the harsh, accusatory reaction of a portion of historians when one dares to say anything substantive about a historical figure. Those historians who think that one can never understand Kant, etc., without devoting an entire career to doing so not only, I suspect, err factually, but also entomb Kant. His philosophy can only be alive if other philosophers can tangle with him. This is not to excuse sloppiness, nor to say that one can get by without reading the secondary literature.
I've served on the UC Riverside admissions committee off and on for 15 years. I have never heard anyone complain that a foreign applicant has too much philosophy and not enough of anything else. There are other hurdles for foreign applicants, though. Among them: disincentives built into some schools' admissions package funding structures, difficulty evaluating foreign transcripts, lower likelihood of foreign letter writers being known to members of the admissions committee, and subtle (or not-so-subtle) cross-cultural differences in philosophical writing styles and letter writing styles. These factors in combination result, I suspect, in non-Anglophone applicants being somewhat disadvantaged by the process at most U.S. schools.
Thanks, Thomas! We're inclined to agree. In fact, we already have a self-deception scenario that we are considering running in a follow-up.