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Aaron Boyden
I'm a recent Ph.D. doing adjunct teaching at schools around Boston and Providence.
Interests: philosophy, science fiction, alternative music, role-playing games
Recent Activity
So, Meno ends with Meno and Socrates agreeing that virtue cannot be taught. But there is reason to doubt whether Plato intended the reader to draw this conclusion. There are two arguments in favor of virtue being knowledge (and so teachable), and two arguments against virtue being knowledge (and so teachable). The arguments against are conspicuously weak (though the weaknesses are, admittedly, not highlighted and discussed in the text), and the arguments in favor are never refuted, just set aside.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2022 at Neurath's Boat
I feel like I should be posting more philosophy, but I should be posting more total, so I'm going to go on record as being fiercely opposed to this new FOSTA bill. As with most measures billed as combatting "sex trafficking," it conflates trafficking with sex work generally. As usual, existing law provides plenty of ways to prosecute those who employ actual coercion or underage sex workers; such people are in fact often caught, unless they are themselves police (as... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2018 at Neurath's Boat
On facebook and on my blog feeds I've been seeing a lot of enthusiastic discussion of pressuring banks, or Amazon, or advertisers, or whoever to stop doing business with the NRA or with gun manufacturers. Discussions like this,or links to such discussions. And I'm against all of it. I don't want Amazon to stop selling books that talk about the Armenian genocide because they offend Turks or the Turkish government, I don't want banks to stop dealing with abortion providers... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2018 at Neurath's Boat
It is, of course, fairly common to encounter people talking about sex trafficking in various political discussions, or to encounter it as a plot element in entertainment. It seems worth blogging about because it's an area where I have somewhat contrarian opinions, as a result of having looked up some of the academic research on the subject at various times. This has led me to be a follower of various sex worker advocates, whose work I would recommend. The most... Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2017 at Neurath's Boat
I'm going to be teaching "Logic and Probability in Scientific Reasoning" in the spring. My usual practice is to distribute PDFs for any class I teach, but due to a combination of desire for consistency with the way the class is taught by the usual instructor (someone other than me, obviously) as well as my not being aware of comparably good resources anyway, I am likely to use Skyrms' Choice and Chance and Hempel's Philosophy of Natural Science in this... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2017 at Neurath's Boat
Even if you really haven't found any good smackdowns of your mistakes recently, continuing to draw attention to that failure to find successful criticisms of your views does start to sound like boasting.
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I've been making my way through Hume's History of England. As I had previously read the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, I can definitely see where Hume was an influence on Gibbon. On the other hand, I can also see why Gibbon, and not Hume, is considered the first truly modern historian. Hume is sometimes careful to be skeptical of his sources, but I think not quite often enough. He appears to be much too... Continue reading
Posted Jun 29, 2017 at Neurath's Boat
This looks entirely ccorrect to me. Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2017 at Neurath's Boat
I like the fourth point in this post. I have come to regard traditional religion as pretty much like a skeptical scenario. I cannot prove that I am not a BIV. I suppose there is some sequence of experiences that would convince me that I am a BIV, but I find it pretty much impossible to specify them in advance, because the evidence would necessarily involve also convincing me that I'm quite wildly deceived about any number of things. I... Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2016 at Neurath's Boat
Of course Plato is trying to set up his discussion of the deep issues of justice, but he was also a dramatist of a kind, so it is probably wrong to ignore the surface issues entirely. Sokrates is being rude to Kephalos, or at least teasing him, and Sokrates is famously poor, so Kephalos suggesting that wealth=virtue is at least in part just Kephalos responding in kind to Sokrates' verbal sparring.
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Also interesting that with only 3 women on the list, women took the first and third spots, and the worst woman was middle of the pack. Perhaps the Fed needs more women.
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The pace of the references seems to increase over time. Of course, this could be an artifact of more recent references being easier to find, but I don't wish to impugn the thoroughness of the efforts by the Claires, so I'm going to assume this is a genuine pattern. What might it mean?
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The problems are so numerous. I suppose one of the less obvious ones that occurs to me is that part of the benefit of having people vote is that giving them a say in how the state is run helps make them feel that the state is theirs, as opposed to something inflicted on them, and biasing the system against some of the participants will undermine that effect for those who suffer the bias. Plus corruption, perverse incentives (gives the powerful incentives to discourage education of the masses), the less educated have less say anyway because of less money and influence, enough so that their interests are inadequately served by politicians more interested in swaying those who can help them with money and connections, and Mill's proposal would serve to further increase this systemic bias against the lower classes, and so on and so forth.
On why there haven't been more 9/11 style attacks, I thought the research on terrorists generally suggested that the most likely explanation is that there just aren't very many terrorists motivated enough to carry out such attacks.
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The costs of the intelligence agencies seem to be quite high. Even their literal dollar costs are, in the case of the U.S., immense (tens of billions annually). But this is probably dwarfed by the costs in terms of the ways secrecy is always abused, to cover up damaging incompetence and corruption. On the other hand, the controversy over the value of intelligence agencies, at least among those who seem to be making a serious attempt to look at what evidence we have, is between those who think they're slightly useful and those who think that they are useless. Everything we don't know about them would have to be quite different from, and vastly better than, everything we do know about them for the intelligence agencies to be worth it. Everything we know about how people behave when they have no oversight and can conceal all of their corruption and mistakes suggests that, on the contrary, the stuff that is more secret is almost certainly worse rather than better. So the probability that the accomplishments of the intelligence agencies could outweigh their costs seems negligible to me. One example I like to point out; during the cold war, the Soviet Union was much better at keeping secrets from the United States than the U.S. was at keeping secrets from the Soviets. But the Soviets decisively lost the cold war. It isn't really controversial that one of the biggest contributors to the Soviet collapse was corruption. Since as noted, secrecy enables corruption, I think there's a good case to be made that the Soviet skill at keeping secrets was actively counter-productive, contributing to their inability to compete with the less secretive West.
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@Omega: doubtful. The Iowas had no such problems, and the guns on Yamato were really only slightly more powerful than the Iowa guns. On another note, I've always been mildly curious what they screwed up in the turbine design; the Yamato and Musashi seem to have been significantly less fuel-efficient than other battleships of the era. I've heard the original idea was to use diesel engines, and the Japanese switched back to the traditional turbines because (like everyone else at that time) they couldn't figure out how to make big enough diesel engines that would work reliably; did the fact that the turbines were a late substitution mean the turbine design was rushed? Or was it corruption in the military contracting, or what? Certainly with Japan's desperate fuel situation, the poor efficiency of the turbines drastically reduced the usefulness of those battleships.
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Hmmm. While my first response to one of these studies is always that people should be taking more seriously the possibility that all that's being revealed is the effect of the environment on brain development, you are perhaps too hasty to conclude that this study conflicts with genetic determinism. If the differences appear around 12 to 14, another obvious possibility is that genetically programmed hormonal changes are responsible for the differences.
My first encounter with the term "visible minority" was rather ironic; a Canadian acquaintance of mine described himself as one (why it seemed worth mentioning is irrelevant here). I hadn't previously thought of him as any kind of minority, and looking at him in light of this new self-description, I was unable to determine what ethnicity he was likely to be (he shaved his head, so no clues from hair, his skin was tan, but not especially dark, and none of his facial features provided any clues I was able to pick up on). However, I didn't voice my doubts about the adjective "visible" in his case.
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Er, Humbert's an unreliable narrator, sure, but I think you're being way too hard on Gerhard Brand. The medieval tradition of courtly love is deeply, deeply problematic, a fact that Brand seems to be invoking, and I don't think it's crazy to suggest that it's problematic in ways similar to the ways Humbert's attitudes are problematic.
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I always cover Apology when I teach introduction to philosophy; I like to cover the classics both because I hope it will be good for the students to expose them to the best of the past philosophers and because with the classics, I can still find new things in them even after having looked at them dozens of times before. One issue which I've been thinking about in Apology particularly is how little Socrates talks about other philosophers. There is... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2012 at Neurath's Boat
An argument could certainly be made for Nixon/Agnew having an advantage over more recent Republican candidates when it comes to their policies, but any policy advantage they may have is surely insufficient to make up for the points they lose for aggressively subverting the democratic process and the rule of law to the extent that they did.
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Erik Loomis seems to think so, but I can't really figure out why. He says things are different now, and describes the past thusly: "Earlier technological innovations did throw people out of work but with growing industrial capacity, actual overall job loss tended to be mitigated by other factors. Long-term unemployment resulted more from rapacious capitalists throwing the nation into long-term depressions than technological displacement. " But why think things are different? In light of the past few years of... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2012 at Neurath's Boat
At the end you consider the problem that when you are dreaming, you generally don't notice the gappiness and irrationality, which of course raises the possibility that there was gappiness and irrationality in your apparently consistent and detailed chess experiment, but you just didn't notice. But you dismiss this as an "additional" doubt beyond the "simply solipsistic" doubt. I'm not satisfied; this distinction between "simple" and "additional" doubt looks fairly suspect to me, more convenient than principled.
I don't know if that wasn't up last time I searched, or if I just didn't search hard enough; I did my own translation a few years ago. For balance, I like to give my students both sides of the discussion, and at least give them access to the Heidegger essay Carnap criticizes. I have found translations of "What is Metaphysics?" online, but the only translation I've found which includes the postscript ( obscures the fact that Heidegger was at least in part responding to Carnap (again a translator doesn't use "overcoming" for "ueberwindung"; Miles Groth uses "getting over" instead. Since the paragraph does contain a reference to "will to power," I guess at least the connection to Nietzsche isn't completely obscured in this case). Also, I don't know if I need to change my adobe PDF reader settings or if there's something wrong with the file, but the Greek words don't show up properly, though I guess that's a minor issue for me since I couldn't read them anyway. Not sure if I want to do my own translation of Heidegger.
Toggle Commented Aug 11, 2012 on Overcoming Metaphysics at Neurath's Boat