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Eric Schwitzgebel
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by Eric Schwitzgebel Yesterday Stephen Bannon, one of Trump's closest advisors, called the media "the opposition party". My op-ed piece in today's Los Angeles Times is my response to that type of thinking. What Happens to Democracy When the Experts Can't Be Both Factual and Balanced? Does democracy require journalists... Continue reading
Thanks for the comment, Kenny! Yes, that seems right about krill and such, and I probably didn't give the idea enough of its due in my parenthetical aside. I was vague about "intelligence" but I was assuming that the target here was intelligence of human level or greater -- which presumably means things like long-term planning, especially in a hostile or competitive environment, and some sort of competition and cooperation with other beings of the same type. I'm thinking, then, that the Darwinian winners here would either dip below human intelligence or have creativity and/or something in the direction of a central workspace, brain fame, or higher-order self-representation. Human-level or greater intelligence, without either of those things, seems like a strange and unstable solution in a Darwinian environment. I guess part of my implicit thinking here is that a workspace doesn't seem *that* expensive to design and it seems like it would bring large advantages of the left-hand right-hand sort.
by Eric Schwitzgebel In a series of fascinating recent articles, philosopher Susan Schneider argues that (1.) Most of the intelligent beings in the universe might be Artificial Intelligences rather than biological life forms. (2.) These AIs might entirely lack conscious experiences. Schneider's argument for (1) is simple and plausible: Once... Continue reading
Interesting -- I haven't tried that! I actually love to go listen to professional storytellers with my children.
by Eric Schwitzgebel One of my regular TAs, Chris McVey, uses a lot of storytelling in his teaching. About once a week, he'll spend ten minutes sharing a personal story from his life, relevant to the class material. He'll talk about a family crisis or about his time in the... Continue reading
I'm with you, Charles. I like to try to situate my work a bit more broadly than just the recent Anglophone tradition, though I am hardly exhaustive or systematic about it. I think that's good, obviously!
Right, but! (1.) There were a few papers in the history of philosophy among the 93. Even these mostly cited English-language secondary literature or dealt with the history of English-language philosophy. (2.) I'm not sure when "history" begins, but there were certainly some important post-war philosophers who wrote in languages other than English, such as Foucault and the later Wittgenstein -- not to mention interesting work by other recent philosophers not writing in English, which is rarely taken up. (3.) I'd like to see non-historically-focused work do a better job of situating itself in the broader European tradition and if possible to some extent also outside the European tradition. For example, in my recent paper on radical skepticism forthcoming in Nous I reference Boltzmann, Descartes, Diogenes, Hadot, Montaigne, Pascal, Sextus, and Wittgenstein. (I'm surprised not to see Zhuangzi in there, actually, since he's probably my favorite skeptic, but that's how it turned out.) This is not a historical paper, but it engages at least in passing with a variety of historical work.
by Eric Schwitzgebel Spoiler Alert: Not much! I estimate that 97% of citations in the most prestigious English-language philosophy journals are to works originally written in English. In other words, the entire history of philosophy not written in English (Plato, Confucius, Ibn Rushd, Descartes, Wang Yangming, Kant, Frege, Wittgenstein, Foucault,... Continue reading
by Eric Schwitzgebel We might think of fictions as extended thought experiments: What might it be like if...? Ordinary fiction confines itself to hypotheticals in the ordinary run of human affairs (though sometimes momentous, exotic, or exaggerated). In contrast, speculative fiction considers remoter hypotheticals. Although much speculative fiction considers hypotheticals... Continue reading
Right, I only did the AIC stats for philosophy, comparing the linear and quadratic fits. It's possible nonlinear fits are also good matches for the other areas too. To do a rigorous statistical comparison between the areas, I might want to convert from raw percentages to odds ratios, and I'd have to think about what to do with percentages over 50%, assuming that 50% is the parity target. In any case, with the large numbers involved, it would be surprising if the visually evident differences, in both slope and percentage, weren't statistically significant by any reasonable measure. If the physical sciences have slowed, it still seems the case both that the increase is greater than in philosophy and the slope steeper over the period from the 1990s to the present. Maybe if we just look at 2000-2014 there is no difference in slope between philosophy and the physical sciences. That could be interesting as a post-hoc test.
by Eric Schwitzgebel As Carolyn Dicey Jennings and I have documented, academic philosophy in the United States is highly gender skewed, with gender ratios more characteristic of engineering and the physical sciences than of the humanities and social sciences. However, unlike engineering and the physical sciences, philosophy appears to have... Continue reading
Yes, I agree with all that. There is a kind of symmetry in the killing of the firstborn and the Pharaoh's killing of all the Jewish boys. I think you agree with me that this doesn't *dramatically* change the moral significance of a miraculous God's choosing to kill Egyptian children in the way he does, although it gives it some rhyme, some semblance of justice if one accepts "punish the sons for the sins of the fathers" and/or "punish the people for the sins of their leader" as a standard of justice. On Tubman: A myth for 21st century values! I haven't studied the history of Tubman, but I feel the temptation to elevate her character and enhance the significance of her particular role, to create a locus for celebration. (To be clear: this isn't *any* knock on Tubman, simply a thought about a temptation in my own mind to try to turn her into as much of a superhero as I can.)
by Eric Schwitzgebel ... and celebrating the death of children? "Does it matter if the story of the escape from Egypt is historically true?" Rabbi Suzanne Singer asked us, her congregants, on Saturday, at the Passover Seder dinner at Temple Beth El in Riverside. We're a liberal Reform Judaism congregation.... Continue reading
That does seem to me like the best direction to develop an intellectualist view, akreider. But I'd still push back against intellectualism. On your first paragraph, for example, the pushback toward change might start with an emotional reaction, for example, with the intellectual stuff tagging along behind it. On your second paragraph, I suspect the case could be developed in either direction, and that a psychologically realistic version would tend to be a compromise between the two directions.
Thanks! On what you say, yes there's a shift with dissonance -- although talk of "token mental states" sounds a little too suggestive of a kind of realism about mental states as countable entities for me to be entirely comfortable with that phrasing.
Thanks for pushing on this so helpfully, Anon! I like to analogize to personality traits. Imagine someone who is socially courageous in risking her financial welfare and social standing to stand up for what's right but who lacks physical courage in the face of violent threats. Is she courageous? "Well, yes and no" could be a reasonable way of beginning -- though not a very helpful place to stop. She is courageous in some respects but not in others. One way of thinking about this is to think of courage as involving a suite of dispositions. She has some of the dispositions, while she lacks others. It's not that she has two ontologically real personality switches inside, one switched to "courageous" and another switched to "uncourageous" and they are buzzing against each other in conflict. So similarly for beliefs in my view. In a realistic Daniel-like case, he matches the dispositional profile of an egalitarian in some respects but not in others. No need to think there's an ontologically real "P" and "not-P" in his belief box dueling it out. The normativity of rationality on my picture of attitudes is something I'm hoping to work through in more detail soon. For now, let me say that there is some cognitive pressure to conform to belief stereotypes and that that type of cognitive pressure can be part of the picture in explaining how cognitive dissonance phenomena work.
Anon -- I agree that purely pristine cases are a fiction, and I wouldn't be inclined to think that a case like Daniel's would be pristine. Maybe I should have made the point more explicitly, but I settled with saying "for the most part" in the post. Conflicting beliefs is one way to go with this, but I'm not sure what the advantage is of framing things in that way, compared to going broad-based as I prefer. One disadvantage: If someone asks, "Does Daniel believe P?", you can simply say "yes" on the conflicting beliefs view. Then later, if someone asks "Does Daniel believe not-P?", you can also simply say "yes". [corrected from "no"] An outsider watching that might find that a bit odd. Better, I think, to refrain from simple yes-or-no and describe it as a mixed-up inbetweenish case (which I think is the best approach to the broad-based view).
By Eric Schwitzgebel Consider cases in which a person sincerely endorses some proposition ("women are just as smart as men", "family is more important than work", "the working poor deserve as much respect as the financially well off"), but often behaves in ways that fail to fit with that sincerely... Continue reading
Eric Schwitzgebel and Carolyn Dicey Jennings This article brings together lots of data that we have been gathering and posting about over the past several years, here and at The Splintered Mind. Considered jointly, these data tell a very interesting story about the continuing gender disparity in the discipline. Here's... Continue reading
by Eric Schwitzgebel The Survey of Earned Doctorates is a questionnaire distributed by the U.S. National Science Foundation to doctorate recipients at all accredited U.S. universities, which draws response rates over 90% in most years. The survey includes data on gender and ethnicity/race. Data for 2009-2014 are readily available online... Continue reading
The order in which moral dilemmas are presented matters to people's judgments and can substantially influence later judgments about abstract moral principles. This is true even among professional ethicists with PhD's in philosophy. In 2012 and 2015, Fiery Cushman and I published empirical evidence supporting these claims. We invite a... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2015 at Experimental Philosophy
Right, the evolution of scientific language including from metaphorical to literal, is the kind of thing Carrie has in mind. The loading dock guy's usage is charming, and we all know what he means. Presumably there will be linguistic tests for metaphor, polysemy, and literalness that could be applied to his idiolect; and I'm not sure which way those results would go. If it turns out literal, and if his usage becomes widespread in that literal way by linguistic standards, then the meaning of "want" will be much more liberal than most of us currently think it is. Of course, "want" has already gone through some changes. In Shakespeare's day, it often meant something closer to "lack".
I would tie together my answers to your second question and your first. The remnant of dualism (in my interpretation of Carrie) is that mental state verbs should travel together, because there are some minded beings and other unminded beings. Minds are these privileged spaces where consciousness and all mental events occur. Carrie's work challenges this conception by allowing some terms ("preference") to be widely applicable even to entities that we would not normally think of as minded, while other terms stay more narrowly confined. And with that in mind, your first question will be ill-posed from her perspective. Yes, "the whole network" of psychological states won't apply to neurons. But that's the interesting feature of her view, not a problem with it.
by Eric Schwitzgebel Carrie Figdor has been arguing that they do. Consider these sentences, drawn from influential works of neuroscience (quoted in Figdor forthcoming, p. 2): A resonator neuron prefers inputs having frequencies that resonate with the frequency of its subthreshold oscillations (Izhikevich 2007). In preferring a slit specific in... Continue reading