March 2005

Mohan's Question

During the call-in component of the show, Mohan asked a question about the relationship between political freedom and metaphysical freedom.  Although it was a bit off the central topics, it does raise a question that has troubled me.  That is,  I believe that genuinely available metaphysical alternatives or possibilities are not required for moral agency--the forward-looking aspect (practical reasoning) or the backward-looking aspect (moral responsibility).  But then why would I prefer to live in a nation with political liberties, such as freedom of speech,

Read more

Did I Cheat?

Poor compatibilism. It is actually not all that bad, and it is defended by very able philosophers, such as my colleague, Gary Watson. But recall that I am a semicompatibilist. I do not think that freedom to do otherwise (regulative control) is compatible with causal determinism. But I do think that causal determinism is compatible with acting freely (guidance control).

Read more

Freedom, Responsibility and Martian Anthropology

Suppose you are a Martian Anthropologist, on a scientific expedition to planet Earth. Your goal is to understand the alien Earthling practice of holding people morally responsible for their actions. There are no such practices on the planet Mars. Let's grant for the moment that your advanced Martian Science has once and for all established the truth of determinism or its functional equivalent.

Read more

Responsibility and "The Actual Sequence"

John Locke came up with the original "Frankfurt-type example".  (The examples have been called "Frankfurt-type examples after Harry Frankfurt's ingenious development of them in a 1969 Journal of Philosophy paper, "Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility."

Read more

Free Will

Suppose Ken and I are sitting at KALW, just before the program begins. I have forgotten to get myself a styrofoam cup of water, which I badly need, and there isn't time to run and get one. There is one sitting beside Ken, which he has has clearly gone and gotten in his responsible way. While he isn't looking, I snatch his cup and move it over to my side of the table.

Read more

Reverence for the Given? Further Thoughts on Cosmetic Neurology

In my pre-show reflections,  I tried to isolate what exactly was being claimed by those who worry about tinkering too much with the  Wisdom of Nature.   What that argument really comes down to, I think, is the claim that we ought to have a certain reverence for what I called the given order of things.   I didn't say whether I thought that claim was true or false.  We began to talk about it a bit on the air, but we barely scratched the surface.  In this 

Read more

On the so-called "Wisdom of Nature"

I have to admit that when John Perry first suggested that we do a show on the emerging field of neurcosmetology, I was a little hesitant. I had never even heard of the subject until John brought it up. As John mentions, if you Google neurocosmetology all that comes up are links to our own web page announcing the topic. And to top it off, google asks if you don't really mean"neurocosmology."

Read more

Neurocosmetology

Progress in neuroscience may soon make possible an age of neurocosmetology: the use of drugs to let people affect the way their brains work, so as to make them more effective, more attractive, and more like their "cognitive ideal." A world where all the women are beautiful and all the men handsome might be bearable if boring. But would a society full of type-A's work at all?

Read more

Beauty that Haunts

There is, I think, such a thing as beauty that haunts. This is the beauty of movies like Requiem for a Dream. Imagine a work of art dedicated to doing nothing but portraying the psychology of evil, not in such a way as to praise or condemn, not to represent it as other, alien and incomprehensible, but merely to make us see it as it is.

Read more

Beauty: Skin-Deep, in the Eye of the Beholder and Valuable?

There is such a thing as beauty that is only skin-deep. It is the beauty of appearance, what we call "looking good." It has little to do with personality, character, wit or morality, and that is because anything that applies to how things look is not a reliable guide to many of their other qualities.

Read more

On the Absence of Dogmatism

During our episode on Religion and the Secular State Robert Audi claimed that some religions are non-dogmatic He might be right about that, I am not sure which ones he had in mind. On the other hand, John was pushing the line that many of our "secular" beliefs have pretty much the status and function of dogmatic religious beliefs. At least for some people, he might be right about that.

Read more

Nehamas to Guest Blog

We here at Philosophy Talk:  The Blog are please to announce our first guest blogger, the distinguished philosopher of art,   Alexander Nehamas of Princeton University.  Alexander will be our guest on next week's episode.  We think it'll be a fun show and we look forward to hearing from Alexander. We hope that Alexander is the first in a long line of distinguished guest bloggers. Enjoy!

Read more

The Experience of Beautiful Things

Since lots of beautiful things don't have skin, whoever first said that beauty is only skin deep was clearly mistaken. When I was a kid, by the way, we used to continue "...but ugliness is to the bone." Of course, the speaker was probably being metaphorical. Perhaps he or she was trying to say that beauty is the least of the virtues that a thing can have. But is it really an apt metaphor?

Read more

Beauty and subjectivity

Is beauty like a secondary quality, mind-independent, but intersubjective? That is, if people are in the right conditions, will they agree on what is beautiful and what is not? What would the right conditions be? Not just good lighting, but also, perhaps, a proper upbringing, a well-trained eye, ear, or palate. I have some sympathy with this idea.

Read more

Random Thoughts on Religion and the State

It seems to me that there is a pretty good argument that allowing the Ten Commandments to be displayed does not violate the amendment. They do play an important role historically in the development of the idea of the government by law rather than the whims of individuals. Most of the commandments aren't all that controversial.

Read more

Respecting Religious Belief

Assuming that religious beliefs are in some sense less than fully rational, what follows for how they ought or ought not to be respected and acknowledge in private and public life? You might think that the answer is straight-forward on this assumption. But even if we assume the thoroughgoing epistemic unreasonableness of religious belief, it still turns out to be complicated.

Read more

Hello from Ian Shoales

Hi all.  I just read in the Los Angeles Times that “[o]fficials decided today to make the Walt Disney Concert Hall a little duller…. [T]he shimmering stainless steel panels that have wowed tourists and architecture lovers but have baked neighbors living in condominiums across the street.” According to an LA County report, “Beams of sunlight reflected from the hall have roasted the sidewalk to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, enough to melt plastic and cause serious sunburn to people standing on the street.”

Read more