Philosophers’ Carnival #142

(Image credit: “School of Athens” by Raphael via Wikipedia [public domain] adapted by Nick Byrd).

Welcome to the 142nd instantiation of The Philosophers’ Carnival.* The posts are below. In parentheses are the categories into which each post might fit and below is an excerpt. Special thanks to Jared Smith over at Philosophy & Polity who resurrected this edition after it was tragically erased from my server!

Ben Hale The Veil of Opulence (ethics, social philosophy, political philosophy)

Nowadays, the veil of ignorance is challenged by a powerful but ancient contender: the veil of opulence….the veil of opulence runs thick in our political discourse. Where the veil of ignorance offers a test for fairness from an impersonal, universal point of view — “What system would I want if I had no idea who I was going to be, or what talents and resources I was going to have?” — the veil of opulence offers a test for fairness from the first-person, partial point of view: “What system would I want if I were so-and-so?” …the universal view and the first-person view are both compelling in their own way, but only one of them offers moral clarity impartial enough to guide our policy decisions.

(Nick’s reply to Hale)** “The Veil of Ignoracne and Sympathy” (ethics, social philosophy, political philosophy)

…in the NYT’s “Stone” section, Benjamin Hale describes John Rawls’ famous “veil of ignorance.” (…) This, as I say, is a thought-experiment designed to provide purely rational support for two principles of justice.  Yet, sometimes, you hear it described differently, as a mechanism for provoking sympathy towards others.  This is, in fact, just how Hale describes it: (…) This is deeply wrong, though instructively so.

Eric Schwitzgebel & Allan Moore “The External World: Further Evidence of Its Existence” (ex-phi, consciousness, metaphysics)

If solipsism is true, nothing in the universe should exist that is better than I am at chess. Nothing should exist with chess-playing practical capacities that exceed my own. Now I believe that I stink at chess, and my seeming student “Alan” seems to have told me that he is good at chess. If solipsism is true, then he should not be able to beat me at rates higher than statistical chance.

Eric Schwitzgebel’s “In Defense of Uncharitable and Superficial History of Philosophy” (metaphilosophy, ethics)

I think most historians of philosophy and most enthusiasts for particular dead philosophers take charity much too far. There are reasons to prefer uncharitable and superficial readings.

Bradley Gabbard’s “Famine, Affluence, and the Bystander at the Switch” (ethics, political philosophy)

I argue that the Trolley Intuition paired with three highly plausible moral principles justifies compulsory aid to innocent victims of famine and preventable disease across the globe.

John Danaher’s “Consequentialist Theories of Punishment, Part One” and “…,Part Two” (ethics, legal philosophy)

As explained in part one, [Michael] Zimmerman uses [his book, The Immorality of Punishment] to defend two theses about the nature of legal punishment. The first — the partial unjustifiability thesis — holds that there is at least one serious moral reason (possibly more) that counts against punitive acts, practices and institutions. The second — the overall unjustifiability thesis — holds that the weight of moral reasons is highly likely to count against punitive acts, practices and institutions. What I want to do here is see how those theses pan out when it comes to consequentialist theories of punishment.

Peter’s “Nothing Could Be Better…” and “…But Something Seems Necessary” (metaphysics, mind)

(first post)…the question that drives this enquiry…: why all this stuff? Wouldn’t it be more natural if there was nothing? (…) Anyway, what has all this got to do with consciousness? Puzzlement over the existence of the world is partly, I submit, puzzlement over why there are such specific and apparently arbitrary details to it. Why anything, yes, but even if something,why on earth all this? That is strongly related to the questions why me? and What on earth am I?

(second post) My case is that a large part, perhaps all, of the strange ineffability of qualia arises because what we’re doing is mismatching theory and actuality. It should not really be a surprise that the theory of red coloration does not itself deliver the actual experience of redness, but there is some mysterious element in actual real-life experience that puzzles us. I suggest the mysterious extra is in fact haecceity, or thisness; the oddly arbitrary specificity of real life, which sits oddly with the abstract generalities of a theoretical description. (…) Let me here just breezily offer the suggestion that the laws of causation assert the identity of one state of the world with a later state of the world: so for example to say that the world featured me striking a match in certain appropriate conditions at one moment is equivalent (under these laws) to saying there was fire at a slightly later moment. (…) …I will cut boldly to the chase and suggest that all laws of nature are in fact laws of conservation….Certainly it seems that any law which can be stated in the form of an equation must be of this kind.

Jason Zarri’s “Conceivability, Consciousness, and the Content of Belief” (epistemology, metaphysics)

In his article “Consciousness and Its Place in Nature”, David Chalmers presents an argument against materialism—the view that truths about consciousness and indeed mental phenomena in general are in some sense fixed by truths about physical entities—which is based on conceivability. If the argument is sound, the fact that one can conceive materialism to be false entails that materialism actually is false. In this paper I will argue that the argument is unsound, and I will do so by giving a parallel argument that is clearly unsound.

Eric Mack’s “Natural Rights and Natural Stuff” (political philosophy)

In this symposium contribution my major goal will be to support disbelief in any fundamental natural and equal right to raw material stuff. If I accepted the standard picture of the dispute between right and left libertarianism, I would then be affirming the right of self-ownership as the sole fundamental natural right.  But I do not accept this picture of the dispute.

Clayton Littlejohn’s “The Basing Relation And Reasons As Causes” (epistemology, philosophy of action)

I argue that reasons to believe, reasons to act, the reasons for which we believe/the reasons on the basis of which we believe, and the reasons for which we act/the reasons on the basis of which we act are facts. Specifically, they are the facts that agents have in mind when making up their minds about what to do or believe, not facts about their minds when they make up their minds about what to do or believe. I thought I’d write up a post here to try to defend that view.

Tomkow’s “A Few Short Steps to the Gallows” (ethics)

The right to Retaliate is just an instance of the right to compensation.

Maryann Spikes “Does Grounding Moral Truth in God’s Nature Violate Hume’s Is-Ought?” (philosophy of religion, epistemology)

The short answer is, no, only if you try to justify that truth by referring back to God’s nature.  Here is the long answer…

Philosopher’s Beard’s “Does Moral Theory Create Extremism?” (ethics)

Moral theory is what most moral philosophers spend our time doing. We try to clarify our moral intuitions about things like fairness, freedom, and responsibility and how they relate to each other. We do that by working them out as specific concepts which operate according to consistent and coherent rules (theory)…. But when the same approach is directly applied to our political debates about complex moral issues – like abortion and vivisection – it can easily give rise to extremism.

Richard Chappell’s “Information and Necessarily Coextensive Properties” (epistemology)

The fundamental problem with normative naturalism is thus that it doesn’t have enough properties to ground any new claims (or cognitive significance) beyond what could already be expressed in non-normative terms. But Open Question and Knowledge arguments establish that normative claims cannot be reduced to non-normative claims. When we call an act “right”, we are saying something other than that it is “D1 or D2 or …” But then what are we saying — what new information are we conveying — if not that the act possesses a distinctive further property (i.e., that of being right)?

Dan’s “Singer and Rawls on International Justice” (ethics)

John Rawls and Peter Singer both hold to the view that society should be constructed in an egalitarian manner. In this essay I will explore the differing methodologies which Rawls and Singer use to develop their respective theories of international justice. I will argue that Rawl’s approach has stronger potential if the ‘difference principle’ were to be applied to the international justice sphere. I will also explore Singer’s theory and suggest that as they both stand, Singer provides a more responsible and egalitarian conception of international justice. Throughout this essay, I will work from the assumption that a philosophically consistent, egalitarian and responsible theory is superior to the alternative options.

Bloycey’s “Some Thouhts on Utilitarianism and Felicific Calculus” (ethics)

P1 – We should aim to perform perfect felicific calculus’s. (see here)

P2 – Perfect felicific calculus’s are conducted with a complete knowledge of all the ‘relevant facts’ involved.

P3 – We are ignorant about what the ‘relevant facts’ in a scenario will be until we encounter the scenario in which the felicific calculus is required.

C1 – Therefore ANY fact should be considered valuable because it is a potentially ‘relevant fact’. (And the possession of ‘relevant facts’ is a necessary condition for conducting a reliable felicific calculus)

C2 – Therefore we should aim to gather as many facts about the world as possible.

P4 – We gather facts about the world through our direct and indirect experiences.

C3 – Therefore we should maximise our direct and indirect experiences.

We can reach C2 and C3 through the uncontroversial P1. I am concerned, however, with the implications of C3 and whether or not it is compatible with the central tenets of Utilitarianism.

Noah Greenstein’s “Paradox of Unreasonability” (philosophy, logic)

“You’re being unreasonable!” One or more of you may have had this directed at you. But what does the speaker mean by it?


*Thanks to all who submitted and to all who were invited despite not submitting. And thanks even to those who could not be included. You all have made for a wonderful month of reading and organizing.

**This is not the Nick hosting the carnival.

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Nick Byrd

Nick is a cognitive scientist studying reasoning, wellbeing, and willpower. When he is not teaching, in the lab, writing, exercising, or relaxing, he is blogging at