"School of Athens" by Raphael via Wikipedia [public domain] adapted by Nick Byrd

Philosophers’ Carnival #171

Welcome to the 171st edition of the Philosophers’ Carnival. Thanks to all those who submitted, to everyone who is reading, and to Tristan Haze for his support. Here we go!



Conceptual Geneology For Analytic Philosophy. Catarina Dutilh Novaes offers a series of four posts in which she defends a “historicist conception of philosophical concepts.” There are helpful links to the literature and to the other posts in the series in this final post.

Degrees of Justification. Luis Rosa begins exploring the claim that degrees of justification will not be satisfactorily captured by probabilities.

Human Errors and My Errata. Anne Jaap Jacobson has written four posts over at The Brains Blog. The overall project: “My intention in planning these four posts was to close on a kind of contribution very developed in feminist thought.  The contribution has concerned how we account for human cognitive successes when we are actually rather error-prone creatures.  The very general approach is to give up a kind of Cartesian picture of the mind.  What is instead emphasized is the extent to which our knowledge depends on our social interactions.”

Normative Beliefs and Epistemic Norms. Jussi Suikkanen motivates the claim that there are asymmetries in the standards of evidence and defeaters between certain kinds of beliefs and then poses questions about the literature and about the claim.

Seemings. Jonathan Farrell motivates the need for a taxonomy of seemings over at Imperfect Cognitions.

The Mathematics of Morality. Awhile back, Lance Linke laid out an interesting idea: defining moral behavior with math. After he explains this, he suggests that this project might even offer another way to think about moral realism.

Understanding. Abram Demski takes a cue from modeling to help characterize ‘understanding’ (as opposed to ‘knowledge’). It involves thinking about two types of models that have two different purposes: (a) highly technical models, which are used to obtain optimally reliable predictions and (b) “folk” models, which are used to explain — or understand — highly technical or complicated models or phenomena. Understanding, according to Demski, is most similar to the second model.



Knowing Something That You Think Is Probably False. Sounds like a conundrum, right? Eric Schwitzgebel makes sense of this by fleshing out the differences between our knowledge of P and our confidence that P. Discussion ensues.

Ordinary Language or Just Ordinary English? Nomy Arpaly shrewdly asks, “[How much do our appeals to ordinary language actually depend on ordinary use of our own language?]”

The Empirical Armchair. “I argue that a particular kind of armchair, analytic method is at once (i) a viable, and (ii) an empirical approach to answering metaethical questions about the nature of normative properties.  I also suggest it is (iii) uniquely apt, and (iv) the dominant actual method, despite what metaethicists may claim to be doing. (Hopefully that rattles a few chains).”

Trouble for E=K? Clayton Littlejohn introduces the tripartite view of how to attain epistemic standing, which he takes many readers to find intuitively appealing. Then he shows his this appealing view might be in conflict with E=K (i.e., the claim that your evidence includes all and only what you know). This seems like a problem, so Clayton asks, “What’s the best solution?”

Questioning Political Dogmas. It would be unsurprising to find that the largest chunk of the philosophical community leans to left, politically. Richard Yetter Chappell asks whether this should be concerning. Overall, he does not seem that concerned. Indeed, he quickly concludes that many conventionally conservative views (e.g., anti-gay views, current US immigration policies, etc.) deserve to be rejected because the are no more reasonable than, say, racist or fascist views. After dismissing these views, Chappell asks whether any traditionally conservative views should be taken (more) seriously by academic philosophers. He mentions three.



Automatizing Mid-Level Decision-Making. Peter Tse claims that if effortful and attention-demanding cognition can become automatic (or habitual?), then friends of libertarian free will might have a mechanism with which to account for character (re)formation.

A Note On The Scaling Of Desirability. Wolfgang Schwarz presents a claim from Richard Jeffreyabout the desirability (or “news value”) of propositions, reveals a problem with this claim, introduces a solution to the problem, and then analyzes this solution. It’s interesting and impressively concise!

A Perdurantism Without Temporal Parts. Alexander Pruss says, “On standard perdurantism, I persist over time in virtue of having temporal parts that exist at various times [but such parts pose problems]. On trope perdurantism, I persist over time in virtue of having temporal locatedness tropes. On this theory, the temporal locatedness tropes et play the role of the temporal parts of standard perdurance. But they aren’t parts. So we aren’t committed to parts [or the problems that come with parts]” (brackets are my attempted summaries).

Internalism = Coherentism. Ralph Wedgwood argues “that given the right understanding of what ‘coherence’ is, the only plausible form of internalism is equivalent to coherentism.”

Jackson on Learning From Others. Brian Weatherson argues thusly, “Conciliationism of any kind is inconsistent with this Jacksonian view of testimony, and the Jacksonian view is correct, so conciliationism is false.”

Lying, Truth, and Truthfulness. Stephen Wright outlines a classic distinction about certain claims and then suggest the following: “Insofar as we can distinguish between (i) and (ii), I suggest that this distinction shows that we should not think that lying involves saying something that you believe to be false.”

On Negation And Necessities About Contingent Existents. Tristan Haze offers a longer post, the primary conclusions of which are as follows: “We can distinguish two construals of inherent counterfactual invariance, so that on one ‘Hesperus is Phosphorus’ is not strictly speaking necessary (while ‘If Hesperus exists, then Hesperus is Phosphorus’ is), and on the other it is. There are at least two viable ways to get the second construal…: (i) by means of a distinction between internal and external negation, where the former preserves presuppositions and the later cancels them, or (ii) by defining inherent counterfactual invariance, not in terms of all counterfactual scenario descriptions permitted by the system of language to which the proposition in question belongs, but rather in terms of the subset of permitted counterfactual scenario descriptions which describe scenarios in which the presuppositions of the proposition in question hold.”

Pereboom’s Four Case Argument. Another splendid post from John Danaher. He helpfully introduces the background, carefully outlines Pereboom’s argument, and then critically examines it. This is part of a series that John is doing on Pereboom. The other posts in the series are also worth checking out.

Theism and Material Causality. Ex-apologist presents an argument which concludes that theism is false given that it conflicts with evidence that objects with an originating and sustaining cause require a material cause.

Why Regress Arguments Against Self-Forming Acts and Ultimate Responsibility Fail. Another post by Peter Tse — what can I say, they’re great posts and the timing is perfect! This time Tse takes on regress arguments by dismantling a famous instance of a regress argument from Strawson (1998) and then responds to potential objections.



Mindlessness. Ezio De Nucci presents his book Mindlessness (2013). It is, among other things, about the implications of behavioral and cognitive automaticity for philosophers of action.

The Good Life: Unifying The Philosophy and Psychology of Well-being. I had a chance to read a manuscript of this book before it was released (2015). I was rather taken by it. I offer a précis of the argument in one of my posts: Well-Being, Exercise, and Neuroscience.



Monism Special Issue. Over at FauxPhilNews: “In this issue of the Proceedings of the Society of Drinking a Lot of Cough Syrup, we take up [the question of how many things there are] and explore an underdeveloped answer. Monism: because counting is hard.”


Stuff Behind Paywalls

Why We Have Free Will. Eddy Nahmias argues that neuroscience hasn’t shown that free will is an illusion, despite the numerous claims to the contrary.


Concerning The Profession

A User’s Guide To Philosophy Without Rankings

Best Practices for the Inclusive Philosophy Classroom

Do cover letters for journal submissions make any difference?

Lack of Political Diversity: A Problem?


To nominate or submit something for the next edition, go to the Philosophers’ Carnival site: http://philosophycarnival.blogspot.com

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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 www.byrdnick.com/blog

2 thoughts on “Philosophers’ Carnival #171”

  1. The link “A User’s Guide To Philosophy Without Rankings” points to “Do cover letters for journal submissions make any difference?”

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