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,

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Did I Cheat?

First, I wish to thank John and Ken for being so kind as to invite me to be a guest on the show; I enjoyed it very, very much.

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Freedom, Responsibility and Martian Anthropology

As John Perry notes in his pre-show post,  some philosophers think that if determinism is true, then there is no freedom, and, consequently, no moral responsibility.     Other philosophers, the compatibilists,  try to find a way to reconcile freedom and determinism.  The goal of such attempted  reconciliations is often to find enough room for freedom to support moral responsibility.  Such philosophers worry a lot about figuring out just what sort of freedom is necessary to support ascriptions of moral responsibility and then they try to show that that kind or degree of freedom is thoroughl

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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."

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Free-will

The term "free-will" has been used in philosophy and theology to formulate a number of different problems.  Here are some of them:1)  If there is an omniscient God --- that is, a God who knows everything --- can we act freely?  How can what we do be up to us, if God already knows what we are going to do?2)  If every event, including human actions --- events that consist of a human being doing something ---  is caused     by the events that lead up to the event, can human actions be free?  If the past determines what we do, how can what we do be up to us?

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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 

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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.

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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?  Can it be rational to choose to change in ways that may change who you are?  Should there be moral or legal prohibitions against healthy people messing with their own brain chemistry?

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Beauty that Haunts

Alexander Nehamas was an excellent guest.  Thanks so much to Alexander for appearing on the show this week.

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

Posted by Alexander NehamasLet me make some dogmatic remarks about beauty and subjectivity.  We can discuss them in more detail on the air tomorrow.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. 

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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.

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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!

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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?   Perhaps we can  answer by applying  the implied standard to the metaphor itself.

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Beauty and subjectivity

Here are two truisms about beauty:Beauty is only skin deepBeauty is in the eye of the beholder

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Random Thoughts on Religion and the State

Today’s show is on Religion and the Secular State.  In our beloved more or less secular nation our thinking is anchored by the first part of the first amendmentCongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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Respecting Religious Belief

Tomorrow, we do a show on "Religion and the Secular State" with Robert Audi as our guest.  There will be lots of issues to talk about I am sure.  Arguments for and against the separation of church and state,  whether "religious reasons"  can function as "public reasons" in a secular state,  hot button issues like abortion, the pledge of allegiance.   We might not, though, get to what I regard as one of the most fundamental issues about religion, since it isn't really the focus of this episode.  I'm thinkin

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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.”

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