Weekly Class Work Space for Proseminar Fall 2015

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  • Course Introductions:
  • Introductions, Course goals, Course websites: alfino.org and wiki, Grading Schemes, Peerceptive, Google forms, Philosophical Research Tools
  • Assignment for Friday: Choose your pseudonym (google form), then write a short reconstruction and critical response to the McGinn article.
  • Explication of "reconstruction" and "critical response"
  • Break
  • Having a philosophical life --
  • Recent Books:
  • Matthew Crawford, The World Outside Your Head
  • Nicholas Carr, The Glass Cage
  • Pope Francis, LAUDATO SI’
  • David Sloan Wilson, Does Altruism Exist
  • Peter Singer, The Most Good you Can Do (appear on the West side soon!)
  • Course Topics
  • Historiography in Philosophy/What is Philosophy? (Who were the Ancients?)
  • Science and Philosophy -- Problem of Induction
  • Philosophy vs. Non-Philosophy
  • Obligations to Aid and Globalization of Ethics
  • Thought Experiments / Genetic Engineering and Transhumanism
  • Kant as Turning Point
  • Faith and Reason / Contemporary study of Religion
  • Introduction to Continental and Analytic Divide
  • Philosophy of Law - Felony Murder
  • Naturalism, Evolution, and Epistemology
  • Buddhism and Personal Identity
  • Food and Philosophy
  • Free Will

Can Morale Disputes Be Resolved? The Stone Article (Poster: Austin)


  • Notes from the Readings for September 8 (contributed by Michael Barbarossa)

Hadot's "Philosophy as a Way of Life"

  • Hadot's Notion of Philosophy:
  • Philosophy is teleological; it may seem obvious, but all the thinking is oriented towards a specific and measurable end
  • That end is the betterment of the individual in the present moment
  • As Hadot quotes from Philo of Alexandria,
  • When pursuing philosophy a person “is in training for wisdom”
  • Philosophy’s “goal is a life of peace and serenity”
  • Sometimes it involves disregarding exterior evils and discomforts
  • All of these traits are components of wisdom, and “real wisdom does not merely cause us to know; it makes us be in a different way” (265).
  • Thesis about the Period of Hellenistic Philosophy:
  • Stoics separated “philosophical discourse” and the “act of philosophy itself”
  • A theory of logic, ethics, and physics must be set forth when teaching, but philosophy is really about putting those into practice and living them
  • Both Stoics and Epicureans advised us to live in the present, not the past or future
  • Philosophy was not elitist, because everyone who worked to implement the lifestyle of the philosophical masters was himself a philosopher
  • Christianity as a Philosophy:
  • Christianity was a philosophy, in this sense of a practical and presently-lived worldview
  • If philosophy meant living in accord with reason, then the Christian lived in accord with the Logos (Divine Reason)
  • A shift occurred with Scholasticism in the Middle Ages: professionals began training professionals at universities with no aim for practical use of philosophy
  • Philosophy also began to serve as only a foundation for theology.
  • Hadot's "Spiritual Exercises"
  • Satisfying the Contemporary Spiritual Demands:
  • Christianity, Judaism, or Oriental religions are not compatible with currents situation
  • Those who desire a “revolution” must prepare for that “revolution”
  • The way of preparation requires bettering oneself
  • Transcending the self allows one to better the self
  • This idea is strongly reminiscent of Greco-Roman philosophies
  • Why spiritual exercises? Because the individual replaces his self (spirit) within the presence and vision of the Whole
  • Roots in Hellenistic and Roman Schools of Philosophy:
  • A switch from the “human” focus on passions and possessions to a “natural” focus of each event within a universal nature
  • Groups of the Stoic Spiritual Exercises:
  • First Group: Attention, Meditations, Remembrances of Good Things
  • Attention allows us to respond immediately to events; to live in the present
  • Intellectual Group: Reading, Listening, Research, and Investigation
  • Active Group: Self-Mastery, Accomplishment of Duties, and Indifference to Indifferent Things
  • Four goals: Learning to Live, Learning to Dialogue, Learning to Die, Learning to Read
  • The philosopher must be not a sage and not a non-sage at the same time
  • He must have one foot in the world of habitual life and the other in the domain of consciousness and lucidity.
  • Short Biographical Notes on Deleuze:
  • Influential French philosopher of the 20th Century
  • Did not accept the Heideggerian notion of the “end of metaphysics”
  • Instead, he considered himself a pure metaphysician
  • Developed a metaphysics consistent with contemporary science and math
  • Philosophy, science, and art were all comparable modes of thought; no subordination
  • For information, here's a link to a good article on his background and work[1]

Deleuze, Introduction to the Question, "What is Philosophy?"

  • theme of seeing things from "old age" How old was Deleuze when he wrote this?
  • there was too much desire to do philosophy to wonder what it was, except as a stylistic exercise.
  • philosophy is the art of forming, inventing, and fabricating concepts.
  • "conceptual personae" (there is a rhetorical and dramatic dimension to this)
  • the object of philosophy is to create concepts that are always new (5)
  • there is no heaven for concepts
  • philosophy is not contemplation, reflection or communication.
  • implies that philosophy "lost the battle" for the word "concept" itself.
  • For more, there is the first chapter, "What is a concept". kind of like a "field"; kind of whiteheadean,

SEP 16

  • Feel free to fill in detail or add your own notes - Alfino.

Giere, "Understanding and Evaluating Theoretical Hypotheses"

  • Watson/Crick excerpt: note ways in which science is collaborative vs. competitive. ways in which personality enters into research.
  • Models: ways on thinking about models.
  • Data & Models: discuss diagram on p. 32. - difference between a "model view" and "realism"

Collaborative vs. Competitive Science: (by Michael)

  • Watson initially pursued the quest for DNA structure motivated by hope for fame
  • Wilkins allowed Watson & Crick to work because of his own slow progress and personality conflict with Franklin
  • After humiliation of the three-chain model failure, Watson & Crick were prohibited by the director of The Cavendish from doing any more research – he wanted to protect the scientific respectability of the institution
  • They were later readmitted to research because of the threat of an American discovering the structure first – thus, national pride also affected the process
  • In 1968, Watson published his book The Double Helix
  • Many claimed it was too personal and that it distorted the true story
  • Thus, the progress and pioneers of science are determined less by altruistic desire for discovery and more by individual competition and desires.

Model vs. Realism in Science (Fig. 2.9, pg. 32): (by Michael)

  • As Giere emphasizes, there is no physical interaction between a model and the real world
    • A process of reasoning or calculation is all that connects them
    • This introduces a majorly human element into the process
  • Especially research fields of science (which operate in the model/prediction area) are very incorporeal
  • Science is actually a rather abstracted discipline

Schick and Vaughn, "Science and Its Pretenders"

  • note how S&V talk about relationship of hypotheses and reality - implications of testing hypotheses in bundles. "saving the theory"
  • note criteria for adequacy: testability, fruitfulness, scope, simplicity, conservatism.
What is a scientific hypothesis? (by Michael)
  • General goal of Scientific Inquiry: identify “explanatory and predictable” principles
  • This implies a certain rationality and stability to the world; otherwise: impossible task
  • A hypothesis helps us to know what information to gather; i.e. what is relevant and not
  • Designed to account for data, but rarely can be derived from data
  • Hypotheses are not discovered but created, just like artistic generation
  • They are the beginning of true scientific inquiry
  • Good to remember: science is not a worldview but rather a method of discerning the truth

Bryson, "How to Build a Universe"

Bryson Reading, First Half

  • Starts off by making it clear how impossible it is to comprehend or to understand the vastness of the universe. Then Bryson moves to the Big Bang
  • Singularity, the tiny space that held everything and that the Big Bang started from
  • There is nothing around this piece of space- it is everything
    • "There is no past for it to emerge from"
    • "And so from nothing, our universe begins"
  • Big Bang occurred, we think, somewhere around 13.7 billion years ago- although truly we aren't very certain.

Idea of Big Bang

  • Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian priest, first proposed the theory in the 1920's
  • In 1965 two astronomers, Astro Penzias and Robert Wilson tried to run an experiment with large communications antenna, but they were troubled by a persistent hissing sound. For a year they attempted to find the cause of this sound by replacing parts, rewiring etc.
    • Previously, a George Gamow theorized in the 1940's that if you went deep enough into space some background radiation should exist from the Big Bang. He said by time it would reach Earth, it would arrive in the form of microwaves- he was right!
  • Penzias and Wilson were eventually connected the dots with the help of researches at Princeton. Penzias and WIlson went on to publish a paper on their work and they won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978 for it.

How We Know These Things

  • Most of what we know about the early moments of the universe are thanks to a theory called inflation theory
  • Developed by Alan Gruth, the idea is that the moment after the dawn of creation, the universe underwent a sudden dramatic expansion.
  • In these starting moments, physics came to be. Interestingly, if physics had come to be at all differently than they are, the cosmos would not have been able to create stable elements that allowed for everything the universe has
    • Page 13: "It seems impossible that you could get something from nothing, but the fact that once there was nothing and now there is a universe is evident proof that you can"
  • There may have been trillions upon trillions of Big Bangs before this one, and this one is finally the one where things worked out
  • Martin Ree's, a British astronomer, promotes the idea that there are many universes and we simply live in the one that allows us to exist.
    • He argues six numbers govern our universe.
      • One, is that hydrogen is to be converted to helium in a way that allows .007 of its mass to convert to energy. If this changed to .006 or .008 the universe, and us, would not exist as it does.

"Everything is just right so far" (16). Three future possibilities

  • Gravity could cause a collapse of the universe, eventually bringing the universe back to singularity
  • Gravity could be too weak, and the universe may ever expand and become so spread out that there is no hope for material relations
  • Lastly, it may be just right, allowing for the universe to continue indefinitely

Barnes, Chapter 16: "Natural Science in the 17th and 18th Centuries"

  • Note causes and factors leading to/ fueling scientific revolution
  • Barnes rather unsubtle theme.
  • note parallel to Crick story.
  • new knowledge coming from outside the university.
  • role of philosophical and learned societies (digress to modern academic freedom).
  • How will you create philosophical society as a student and in your life?

SEP 23

Some of the authors we are focusing on:

On good reflective personas


This blogpost is by a badass philosopher, critical theorist and feminist named Sara Ahmed. She outlines some of the problematic student personas that have emerged in university settings and how they can work to maintain systems of power. I think this is an important read in light of our conversations about what make good, reflective dialogue


Jack Halberstam on trigger warnings

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/ The Atlantic, The Coddling of the American Mind

Woolf, Death of the Moth

  • This is an example of a creative non-fiction treatment of something in our ordinary experience (a moth) that leads us into a philosophical statement or insight about life.
  • Some rhetorical/argument features:
  • sets up description of moth as energy by describing scene that way;
  • creates interest and attention to the ordinary (strangeness of the ordinary);
  • some elements of a point of view or judgement about the observation of the moth (you could enter into agreement or disagreement).

Leopold, Thinking Like a Mountain

  • A great example of "showing vs. telling", Leopold conveys a basic points about ecology through a story.

Forster, What I Believe

  • The title here conveys the genre. A statement of personal creed; a classic sort of philosophical rhetorical stance. We should discuss the pitfalls of this form, but also it's creative possibilities.

Golding, Thinking as a Hobby

  • This piece is a bit more didactic, mixing biography with a "lesson learned" about thinking.

Boyd, The Redneck Way of Knowledge

  • I'll explain in class why I'm torn about this piece as a use of biography for doing philosophy, but it is clearly an example of that. Notice also that the author is trying to capture something rather elusive -- a culturally and regionally specific "way of knowing" or being.

Dennett, "Where Am I"

(by Michael)
  • Story Summary:
    • In some unspecified modern age, Daniel Dennett has gained permission to relate his story
    • He was asked by Pentagon officials to do a security mission to disable a tested warhead
    • They needed to surgically remove the agent’s brain and separate it from his body, because the mission required tunneling underground in Arizona to a radioactive warhead
    • His body would then be controlled remotely from his brain through transmitters
    • Officials approached him because of his interest in brains and cognitive philosophy
    • After a successful operation, Dennett does some thought experiments (see questions)
    • He begins the mission, but loses all radio transmissions and becomes a lifeless body
    • This causes a shift in perspective, to the primary point of view being from his disembodied brain rather than his bodily sense perception
    • After a year of induced sleep, the scientists restore his brain’s connection to a new body
    • They also reveal that his real brain is wired in parallel to a computer copy, and he can switch between the two at will
    • He ultimately continues life in this state, having demanded and received sole control over which brain controls his body
    • By the end, he cannot differentiate between the two brains.
  • Questions / Points of Reflection:
    • Where is the seat of selfhood? Is it in the brain, body, or somewhere else? Reference the following quotation (pg. 232): “I thought to myself: ‘Well, here I am sitting on a folding chair, staring through a piece of plate glass at my own brain.’ But wait, shouldn’t I have thought, ‘Here I am, suspended in a bubbling fluid, being stared at by my own eyes?’”
    • Is the location of a person determined by the location of their point of view, and therefore relative? (pg. 234 #3)
    • The immateriality of the soul (pg. 237-8)
    • The possibility of keeping individuals alive indefinitely (pg. 240)
    • The advantages/disadvantages of a computer versus a brain

Dillard, "Seeing"

  • I don't recall if this was on our original list, but I wanted to note it as the "tour de force" that it is. Dillard connects a pretty thorough set of examples and reflections on a basic epistemic phenomenon -- seeing. The effect is to complicate our understanding through description. Another case of "showing", the piece works through accumulation of examples.

SEP 30

Topic preferences

Click on the link below to add notes from your browsing exercise to the page:

Fall 2015 Proseminar Browsing Exercise

Singer, Ch. 1, "A Changing World"

  • Globalization: Terrorism, climate change, (added: human migration)
  • US interests: political consensus (dems/repubs) on Bush remark.
  • Should political leaders adopt an internationalist stance (beyond interests of their nation-state)?
  • competing models of leadership
  • Historical parable: reaction to 1914 assasination of Crown Prince Ferdinand (and wife) by Bosnian Serb nationalists, starting WW1. Objections to Autro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia. Compare to international reaction to US demands of Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden. principle p. 7, new today vs. WW1.
  • Rawls "old school" scope for theory of justice
  • Is the Nation-state on the decline?
  • Should we be internationalists? Why is multilaterism no longer a political topic in the US?

Singer, Ch. 5, "One Community"

  • Considers aid given after 9/11 to other international aid needs. again with partiality.
  • Sidgwick and Himmler on partiality. Godwin on saving Fenelon vs. the chambermaid.
  • Singer's famous example of saving the small child drowning in the university fountain. distance doesn't matter.
  • Biblical reference to Paul and ethics of partiality.
  • Examination of different forms of partiality: family and kin, gratitude 160ff.
  • Compatriots 167ff. prefering our own might be justified by obligation of reciprocity.
  • Choice between "imagined" community of nation-state and "imagined" global community.
  • Justice between vs. within states: Wellman's arguments
  • Rawls and The Law of Peoples: Rawls example of the two societies: no obligation to redistribute to improve the worst off between the two societies.
  • 2nd criticism: Why allow difference between countries to circumvent redistribution and not allow differences within a country to do so? 178
  • Millenium Development Goals (MDGs); US shortfalls; public perceptions of giving (15% rather than actual 1%)
  • Comparative Value Exercise: Unger's thought experiment: Bob's bugatti. amputation scenarios. yuck.

Sachs, Jeffrey, "Can the Rich Afford to Help the Poor?" (2006)

  • (One of the architects of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Opposed by some noted development economists.)
  • Optimist about relief: .7 GNP level of giving adequate. Absolute poverty down from 1/3 to 1/5 (interesting to compare US discussion in 1960 at the start of the domestic "war on poverty" of the Johnson administration)
  • Increase in wealth of the rich world is dramatic (note Rawlsian difference principle from yesterday)
  • (Digression on actual giving: [2]
  • Note analysis on pages 294 of amounts that developing countries can supply to meet their own poverty needs. Middle-income countries like Brazil, Chile, and Mexico have enough.
  • Can the US afford to meet a .7 GNP target?
  • Sachs considers this obvious. To dramatize his point, on pages 304-308, he points out that the wealthiest 400 US citizens earned more than the total populations of Botswana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda. More to the point, the tax cuts this group received during the Bush administration in 2001, 2002, and 2003 totaled about 50 billion a year, enough to meet the US giving goal of .7% of GNP.

Singer, "Rich and Poor"

  • facts about absolute poverty
  • difference between grain consumption accounted for in terms of meat consumption. problem of distribution rather than production.
  • absolute affluence = affluent by any reasonable defintion of human needs. Go through paragraph on 221.
  • figures on giving by country: OPEC countries most generous. U.S. and Japan least.

The Moral equivalent of murder? five purported differences:

  • 1. allowing to die not eq. to killing. no intention to kill.
  • 2. impossible to ask us to be obligated to keep everyone alive.
  • 3. uncertainty of outcome in not aiding vs. pointing a gun. less direct responsibility, less like 1st deg. murder.
  • 4. no direct and identifiable causal connection between consumerist action and death of individuals in other countries.
  • 5. People would be starving with or without me. I am not a necessary condition for there to be starving people.
  • Singer's point: these differences are extrinsic to the moral problem. there would be cases with these features in which we would still hold the person responsible.
  • Showing the extrinsic character of the differences: Singer's argument strategies at this point is to show that the differences are smaller and more contingent that one might think. Point by point:
  • 1. example of salesman selling tainted food. doesn't matter if no identifiable victim in advance.
  • 2. lack of certainty about the value of donations does reduce the wrongness of not giving (concession), but doesn't mean that its ok not to give.
  • 3. responsibility for acts but not omissions is incoherent way to think about responsibility. consequences of our actions are our responsibility. irrelevant that the person would have died if I had never existed.

Considers non-consequentialist justifications for not aiding (166)

  • idea of independent individual in Locke and Nozick doesn't make sense. Note appeal to social conception of humans based on ancestry!
  • absence of malice also doesn't excuse inaction. involuntary manslaughter (in the case say of a speedin motorist) is still blameworthy.
  • grants that we may not be as blameworthy for not saving many lives if saving those live requires heroic action.
  • The obligation to assist: Main Principle: If it is in our power to prevent something vey bad happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance, we ought to do it.
  • goes on to claim that it is within the power of dev. countries to aid the poor without sacrificing . . . etc.

considers major objections:

  • taking care of your own
  • property rights [at most weakens the argument for mandatory giving (but note that governmental means might be the most effective, esp. where problems have a political dimension)
  • population and the ethics of triage:
  • questions whether the world is really like a life boat


Fight Club Film Viewing

Fall 2015 Proseminar Browsing Exercise

  • Some Fight Club links:
  • A general culture site that identifies five philosophical lessons in the movie. [3]
  • This article makes the Fight Club / Nietzsche connection. [Fight Club: Inhuman or Superhuman?

Submitted by A_Schiller on Mon, 12/20/2010 - 21:55]

  • This one focuses a bit more on alienation. [4]

Fight Club x Sexuality http://jaconlinejournal.com/archives/vol21.4/peele-fight.pdf

Fight Club x Gender http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma02/freed/fightclub/masviol.html

Fight Club x Capitalism https://www3.nd.edu/~olizardo/papers/jcr-fight-club.pdf

OCT 14

Thought Experiments

  • Types
  • Heuristic
  • Diagnostic / Argumentative / Proof
  • Experimental
  • Conceputal analysis: "intuition pumps" -- getting people to see things differently or realize they have intuitions they might not be aware of. [5]
  • Note history of thought experiments (SEP article, p.11ff) and kinds of objections.
  • Check out this article on the Trolley Problem, just sent in yesterday by an former ethics student. Some interesting details: [6]
  • Famous (or notable) Thought Experiments
  • Warrens Moral Space Traveller -- ellucidates characteristics of personhood
  • Thompson's Violinist, Tiny House, People Seeds -- argumentative
  • Violinist:
  • Tiny House:
  • People Seeds:
  • Grandfather's Paradox -- demonstrates impossibility of time travel.
  • Galileo's refutation of Aristotle's physics -- demonstrates a contradiction from Aristotle's physics.
  • Heisenberg's gamma-ray microscope
  • Parfit's amoeba people -- [7]
  • Newton's bucket
  • Mary, the color scientist (the Knowledge Argument) -- [8]
  • Maxwell's demon -- showing possibility of reversal of 2nd law of thermodynamics.
  • Einstein's elevator
  • Searle's Chines room
  • Putnam's twin earth
  • Lucretius's paradox of limits
  • Dennett's "Where Am I?"
  • Transhumanism?
  • How do thought experiments work?
  • Separating (either isolating or heightening) intuitions or emotions from judgement.
  • "Blocking the exits" -- narrowing or constraining your responses by removing them from the fictional scenario.
  • Aporetic -- demonstrating puzzles or apparent contradictions -- Schroedinger's cat.

Judith Jarvis Thompson, "A Defense of Abortion"

  • begins assuming fetus is a person, though she denies that a clump of cells is a person. Wants to see where the arguments goes with that assumption.
  • step from showing its a person to concluding that it can't be aborted needs more attention. Most of the attention falls on showing it's a person.
P1. Fetus is a person.
P2. Every person has a right to life.
C. Fetus has a right to life.

But you need to show that anything with a right to life has a right to your assistance.

Violinist Thought Experiment. 48

  • Point: You don't have an obligation to remain connected to the violinist.
  • "the extreme view" is that abortion is impermissible even to save the life of the mother.
  • additional premises needed for the extreme view:
  • 1. Direct killing of an innocent person is alway and absolutely impermissible
  • 2. Direct killing .... is murder, murder is always impermissible.
  • 3. Duty to refrain from direct killing is always stronger than duty to keep a person from dying.
  • But all of these additional premises are false.
  • If the mother performs abortion on herself to save her life, that can't be murder. 51-52.
  • Part of the problem in the abortion discussion is that we always decide what's permissible for a 3rd party to do, because we always assume the abortion is performed by a 3rd party.

Tiny House thought experiment. 52

  • Point: A 3rd party might say to you "There's no way to choose between you and the child", but that doesn't mean that you can't choose between you and the child.
  • Still, there are limits to self-defense.
  • Variation on the Tiny House thought experiment - include notion of maternal ownership of the "house". Then the 3rd party could help. Two people need a coat to keep from freezing, but one person owns it.
  • 55: meaning of "right to life"
  • any right to life that the violinist has doesn't entail a right to your kidneys. If "the touch of Henry Fonda's cool hand on my brow" were the only thing that could save my life, it wouldn't follow that I have a right to it.
  • often understood as "right not to be killed by anybody", but the purely negative formulation would leave you unable to act against the violinist and would essentially confer a positive right on him to your kidneys.
  • 56: the right to life doesn't guarantee having a right to the use of someone's body. So right to life will not serve opponents of abortion as they think.

Section 4

  • Another way to bring it out. To deny someone's rights is to treat them unjustly, but it's not unjust to deny the violinist use of your kidneys.
  • The right to life must be understood in terms of "unjust killing". So the violinst could have the right to life, but you do not kill him unjustly by unplugging him.
  • 57b [addresses the problem of voluntariness.]
  • by having intercourse, isn't the woman "inviting" the person in? partly responsible?
  • example of the burglar. You aren't partly responsible for the burglar coming in just because you open the window.

People seed thought experiment. 58

  • Point: As with the burglar, the people seed that slips through the screen doesn't acquire a right to your house.

Section 5.

  • From the other side....
  • It would be "morally indecent" to deny the violinist use of your kidneys for one hour.
  • [interesting. an anti-abortionist could argue that the same applies to "nine months"]
  • but this doesn't warrant claims of injustice or denial of rights if you don't.

Section 6.

  • from the pro-choice critic. Thomson's argument does not allow you to guarantee the death of the fetus. If unplugging him doesn't kill him, you have no interest in seeing him dead.
  • It think what Thompon is attempting to do in this article is to give a more moderate defense of abortion. Instead of attacking the notion that life begins at conception (which is irrefutable) or opting for the position pro-lifers have called "abortion on demand;" she is analyzing the moral status of the fetus and saying there are at least some instances in the developmental processes before birth where abortion can be morally justified, or perhaps, better put, not immoral.

OCT 21

God in the Quad
There was a young man who said "God
Must find it exceedingly odd
To think that the tree
Should continue to be
When there's no one about in the quad."
"Dear Sir: Your astonishment's odd;
I am always about in the quad.
And that's why the tree
Will continue to be
Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God."

OCT 28

Random Food Discovery

  • Along the way, Spence has found that a strawberry-flavored mousse tastes ten per cent sweeter when served from a white container rather than a black one; that coffee tastes nearly twice as intense but only two-thirds as sweet when it is drunk from a white mug rather than a clear glass one; that adding two and a half ounces to the weight of a plastic yogurt container makes the yogurt seem about twenty-five per cent more filling, and that bittersweet toffee tastes ten per cent more bitter if it is eaten while you’re listening to low-pitched music. This year alone, Spence has submitted papers showing that a cookie seems harder and crunchier when served from a surface that has been sandpapered to a rough finish, and that Colombian and British shoppers are twice as willing to choose a juice whose label features a concave, smile-like line rather than a convex, frown-like one. (From an article in this week's Food Issue of NYer.)

Two Approaches to the Rationality of Faith

Tonight's seminar samples two very different kinds of literature on the rationality of faith: a traditional yet contemporary treatment from Catholic thought (in Fides et Ratio and Dr. Tkacz's paper on theology in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition) and a contemporary scientific effort to explain religious belief and practice.

  • Major Research Questions Tonight:
  • What is the best way to think about the relationship between faith and reason? Action: define each. Draw pictures.
  • What is wrong with fideism?
  • What dynamic is established by committing one's religion to a philosophical theory of truth (such as Aquinas')?
  • Or, How does a revealed religion figure out which parts of the revelation are universal?
  • Is theology a science? Is philosophy a science?
  • Can articles of faith be objects of knowledge like objects studied by science? Do religions make factual claims?
  • How does the church's discussion of the faith and reason question differ from the problem as it arises in the sciences?

Narrative in Fides et Ratio

  • F&R is one of the most powerful philosophical statements from the Catholic Church in decades. It is both a treatise and a warning, but it also has a narrative. The narrative begins with the encounter of Christianity with the philosophies in it's cultures of origin. The drama of faith and reason is parallelled in the growth of philosophy in the Catholic tradition. This narrative is both detailed and progressive. The encounter of faith with philosophy is told as a progressive drama up to the Modern period. The narrative shifts in the account of Modern and contemporary philosophy to identifying those philosophies that might be incompatible with the truths of revealation. Overall, the encyclical exhorts both people of faith and philosophers to recognize the distinct and mutually supportive relationships that are possible between faith and reason. - Alfino
  • Some additional reading notes:
  • Thematics: Faith and Reason and destinies of church and philosophy; Faith's correction of philosophy; Philosophy within the bounds of faith.
  • p. 3: Philosophy seems to have forgotten...
  • legitimate plurality vs. agnosticism and relativism.
  • Faith as obedient response to God p. 7
  • "ultimate purpose of human existence" a common theme of theology and philosophy.
  • "no reason for competition".... "each contains the other"...reason leading to mystery.
  • p. 12: ack: that you can't reduce eschatology to logic.
  • Christianity's adoption of philosophy, pl 18 ff.
  • Follow from p. 22: The Drama of the Separation of faith and reason
  • Wrong turns and error" ... " Task of Magisterium...." "communism, marxism..."
  • Fideism: (from Tkacz: the view that religious belief is based on faith alone -- that is, religiously belieing is a pure assent of the will)
  • Criticism of philosophy for abandoning metaphysics
  • Current Requirements and Tasks (Requirments for philosophy to be consonant with word of God: (p. 39)
  • must search for ultimate and over arching meaning in life
  • must verify the capacity to know the truth
  • must transcending empirical data to attain the metaphysical and foundational
  • more of the bad list: phenomenalists, relativists, postmodernists, atheists, pragmatism, scientism

Tkacz, "Faith, Reason, and Science"

  • Gould and NOMA
  • Religion makes factual claims.
  • T's position: Religious beliefs can be articulated as knowledge and are no less rational and objective than are the beliefs about the physical world investigated by science.
  • Note hierarchy in final quote.

Barrett, CSR & Sosis, "Adaptive Value of Religious Ritual"

1:"Rather than specify what religion is and try to explain it in whole, scholars in this field have generally chosen to approach 'religion' in an incremental, piecemeal fashion, identifying human thought or behavioral patterns that might count as 'religious' and then trying to explain why those patterns are cross-culturally recurrent."
2:CSR "seeks to detail the basic cognitive structure of thought and action that might be deemed religious and invites historians, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists and other religion scholars to fill in the hows and whys of particular religious phenomena."
":...through the course of development in any cultural context, human mind/brains exhibit a number of functional regularities regarding how they process information. These functional regularities are also known as domain-specific inference systems or 'mental tools'.^ Foi For instance, one mental tool concerns language. Humans (especially pre-pubescent humans) readily acquire and use natural languages but are not facile with non-natural symbolic communication systems such as binary code."
TC - Theological Correctness -- studies involving online/offline tasks
MCI - Minimally Counterintuitive Ideas -- 4 " Compare the idea of a barking dog that is brown on the other side of the fence to a barking dog that is able to pass through solid objects on the other side of the fence. The first dog is wholly intuitive and excites litde interest. The second dog is slightly or minimally counterintuitive and is, consequently, more attention demanding but without overloading on-line conceptual systems. The idea of a dog that passes through soUd objects is made of metal parts, gives birth to chickens, experiences time backwards, can read minds, and vanishes whenever you look at it would amount to a massively counterintuitive concept - if it is a coherent concept at all."
-transmission advantages for MCI's?
Older research -- Guthrie "Faces in the Clouds" - evolution would favor false positives in "agency detection". This may explain hyperactive agency detection. HADD
6: "Additional motivation to talk about and believe in gods may come firom their ability to account for striking events that otherwise have no intuitive explanation."
Born Believers:
promiscuous believers -- studies on children.
Theory of Mind
Whitehouse's "modes of religiosity" theory
Costly Signal Theory --

Sosis, "Adaptive Value of Religious Ritual"

  • Costly Signal Theory again: studies on longevity of communities by costly requirements
  • Cooperation within religious groups: The Shekel game as a measure.


Fichte to Sartre: Philosophy as the drama of the subject

  • As part of our introduction to the differences between continental and analytic philosophy, we take a quick look at some big structures in the history of philosophy -- roughly the development of transcendental idealism through the 19th century, the unique voices it gives rise to an the end of the century (a birth of existentialism), the birth of phenomenology, and the mixing of the two in Sartre and Heidegger.

Nagel, "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?"

Starter small group question: If intelligent life forms visited us, would we be able to communicate? Would we and they know that there is something that it is like to be us?

  • treating the mental as the physical is reductive and mistaken (GC)
  • 436: "close the doors" csness not explicable or analyzable. (read 436) materialism can't explain consciousness. 437 -- follow argument : "every subjective phenomenon is essentially connected with a single point of view and a physical theory will abandon that"
  • Example/Analogy of Bats:
  • imagination doesn't help -- always about imagining us being a bat.
  • 440: "permanently denied to us by the limits of our nature...441: belief in the existence of facts beyond the reach of human concepts"
  • Phenomenological facts, 442 "It is difficult to understand what could be meant by the objective character of an experience."
  • Restatement of problem: 444

Dennett, "What It Is Like to Be a Bat?

  • note difference is makes if you choose bat, spider, monkey, cat.
  • note distinction (in reconstruction) of N's argument: could we confirm that we knew what being a bat was like, or could we even represent it. N's point is the latter.
  • Thesis: There is a lot we can know about being a bat and not much that's interesting that we can't know. (note method: erosion and deflation!)
  • Claim: It is a mistake to think that csness consists of an inner observer (the "audience" in a "Cartesian" theater).
  • We could know that bat had csness if it could talk. So, not in principle out of reach. "cognitive ethology" "cognitive archaeology"
  • (Still, a lot of the research seems to be about "what's missing" from human csness in animals. Other examples: social cognition in dogs, empathy in primates. fairness studies in monkeys).

W. T. Jones, "The Phenomenological Method"

  • Natural Standpoint
  • Epoche, bracketing of natural standpoint. quote on 266
  • Interesting comparison of Husserl's project with Romanticism (267)
  • Absolute subjectivity as the basis for absolute objectivity.
  • note, p. 267: connected for Husserl to crisis in European culture.
  • phenomenological reduction "foregrounds" csness.
  • What do I see from this standpoint? Lots of acts of csness.
270: Note how phen changes the project of modern philosophy: not about verifying that the phenomenally perceived coin correlates with a real (csness independent) entity, but getting the phenomena to disclose structures of consciousness and essences in the appearances.
  • Husserl really thought he was offering a more fundamental and rigorous science that physical sciences provided. 274

NOV 11

Heidegger, "What is Metaphysics?"

In the background:

  • p and ~p -- Being and the negation of being. Classical model of non-being
  • ex nihilo nihil fit -- Christian model of non-being as being empty of God and beings.
  • Heidegger will argue against both of these models.

"Thin" Outline of argument:

  • Argument strategy: How do I get the metaphysical to disclose itself? rather than, "What is metaphysical or transcendent reality?"
  • Science doesn't do it -- it adopts a stance toward the "world as beings" -- ignores question of what is beyond beings. The nothing, non-being.
  • How can we interrogate non-being (the nothing)? As a thing? No. As the "negation of the totality of beings. Better.
  • How do we have an experience of the totality of beings and then an experience of negating that totality? Not by comprehension. We're finite. But tin the way we are "attuned" to the world through mood. Boredom discloses a feeling of "as a whole" when we are bored with everything.
  • For the most part, moods are directed to Beings and Being, but anxiety is different. (not Angst, but Befindlichkeit). Not directed toward beings in particular. In anxiety, I experience a basic disposition to, attunement to, or lack of attunement to, the world as a whole. In anxiety beings "recede away", highlighting our disposition toward nothingness. Anxiety highlights our existence in relation to Being. We are "left hanging" (as over an abyss).
  • Response to the question (in light of this disclosure of the nothing).
  • Beings are not negated in the experience of anxiety, they are "nihilated" - a repelling gesture.
  • Why say that the nothing is prior to and makes possible negation? Because negation presupposes the possibility of being presented with something negateable. Since negation cannot "come from itself" it comes from the experience of nihilation of the nothing. [At stake here is the basic status of logic, here argued to be derivative from fund. existential experience.
  • Heidegger answers the question, "What is Metaphysics" by saying that questioning the nothing by means of anxiety has disclosed the "beyond" of beings. But this is simulataneously the disclosure of Dasein as "held out into the nothing". This is our transcendence. Nohting pervades beings, belongs to the being of beings. Therefore, the classical and christian models are incorrect.
  • concluding points on science, wonder -- from the "strangeness of being",

Interesting new book on apes

  • Oddly relevant to tonights class, here's a link to a review of a new book putting forward a pretty exciting thesis about our ancestors. [10]. For example:
  • "But within the pages of David Begun’s book, primarily concerned with the Miocene world between 23 and 5 MYA, I’ve now encountered no fewer than fifty genera of apes, ranging from Aegyptopithecus at 33 MYA from Egypt to Indopithecus at 6 MYA from Pakistan, and eventually Gigantopithecus, an ape the size of a polar bear that dwelt in the forests of Southeast Asia until a mere 300,000 years ago. And that is probably just half the number of ape genera that have existed on earth."
  • "These accounts are fine but increasingly seem inadequate, or at least only part of the story. The more we learn about our ape cousins—their tool-making, social intelligence, communication skills, complex social behavior, and cultures—the more it appears that much of natural selection’s work for human evolution had been undertaken long before the time of not only the common human-chimpanzee ancestor but also those ancestors we shared with the gorilla at about 10 MYA and the orangutan at about 15 MYA. While the brain of the chimpanzee and the australopithecines may be three times smaller than our own, their brains are nevertheless more than three times larger than what is expected for a mammal of their body size. So an evolutionary trajectory had been set many millions of years before Homo emerged."

Summary of key issues and ideas in first three chapters

  • Chapter 1
  • Problems with teleological explanations
  • Locke and Hume's "near miss" in breaking out of mind-first explanation
  • Chapter 2
  • Darwin, speciation, and the essence/accident distinction
  • What is an algorithm? explanatory power of.
  • Wonder and the coin flipping contest
  • Chapter 3
  • Universal Acid --- mindless creation. evolved minds.
  • Design to Order
  • Why is everything going so fast? does culture and learning change the rate of change? Baldwin, cranes, skyhooks
  • Reductionism -- greedy and good

Dennett, Daniel, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Chapter 1: Tell Me Why

  • Can wonder and purpose be sustained in light of Darwinism?
  • Compares Darwin to Galileo. DD would give Darwin award for best idea ever.
  • Section 2 -- distinguishes 4 causes, or aitia. (23) material, formal, efficient, and final, roughly "What, Where, When, Why"

Problem with teleological questions, no way to stop them, but that doesn't mean they continue to make sense. Darwin gives us new way of asking why questions, dissolves conundrums of the 4 causes.

  • 2 Examples of world view Darwin made obsolete: Locke's "Mind First" view (26-28)
  • -matter alone can't produce mind, mind must come first.
  • Hume - Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779) - DD mentions dist. between natural and revealed religion. In the dialogue, Cleanthes defends the argument from design - world is one great machine. Philo objects to the generalization from one part of the universe (and the presence of mind locally) to a Designer. Also, he points out the regress problem. (30)
  • Philo gets Cleanthes to admit God's Mind is like man's mut then possibly God is a bungler (read 30-31) (interesting anticipation of Darwinism thinking here)
  • At the end of the dialogue, Philo caves in and seems to acknowledge there must be a Designer, but Denntt shows that this was not from fear of atheism charge, but because Hume couldn't imagine an alternative to "mind first"
  • 32-33: shows another passage which Philo seems to Anticipate D-ian thining.

Dennett, Daniel, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Chapter 2: An Idea is Born

  • naturalism, before D., of aristotles' essence/accident distinction (even though in Darwin's time this view was common) Darwin made this obsolete.
  • real v. nominal essences in Locke. 38: Platonic bias against species change, since essences don't change.
  • Introduces Malthus (40). 41: repeats same two points Darwin added to Malthus (as in Ruse, I think): 1. advantage at crunch time to those adapted. 2. Advantages can be inherited.
  • For Dennett, evolution wasn't D's great idea (and he didn't really explain "origins" or speciation, but the algorithm of selection was the huge idea.
  • 44: Darwin winds up defining species pragmatically, not essentially. Interesting examples to undermine "interbreeding" as an essential mark of species. groups that are considered separate species but can breed, groups that are the same species but don't interbreed.
  • cites Ridley on ring species like the Herring gull.
  • Darwin described how a non-intelligent Artificer could produce variation. This reverses Hume's problem of not being able to imagine an alternative to "mind first". Now it's hard to imagine an alternative to selection as a means of producing variation.
  • 50 - DD gives his algorithm interpretation of D-ism.
  • algorithms - a formal process that can be counted on - logically - to yield a certain sort of result whenerver it is "run" ex. long division, balancing your checkbook, etc.
  • features of algorithms: 1) substrate neutrality; 2) underlying mindlessness; and 3) guaranteed results
  • discusses (52-53) algorithms for long division. elimination tournament alg. are more like evolutionary alg. important to note how "automatically" the alg. produces the winner. and how mindlessly.
  • the high odds we associate with winning a coin flipping contest are always experienced retrospectively. from the standpoint of the algorithm it's a necessary outcome that someone will "beat" the odds.
  • 56: illusion of the alg. process that they seem to have a purpose. but alg. that happen to attract our interest are ones which achieve goals we're interested it. that doesn't mean that alg. themselves are purposive. Big misunderstanding of Darwinism that evolution is purposive. Cites Gould's Wonderful Life argument approvingly. If we were to rewind the tape of life, it's massively unlikely that evolution would produce US again. [note problem for view of Deist God that intended our existence]
  • [radical contingency]
  • interesting examples of alg. processes. production of sand on shore, annealing process for metal.
  • 59: final restatement of D's dangerous idea: "the algorithmic level is the level that best accounts for the speed of the antelope, the wing of the eagle, the shape of the orchid, the diversity of species, and all the other occasions for wonder in the world of nature."

Dennett, Daniel, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Chapter 3: Universal Acid

  • Dennett think its important that Darwin gave an explanation "in the middle" after life was present. He saw the implications of his view for metaphysics, but he focused on the recursive mechanism and the best way to see that is in the diversity of species.
  • 63: "If redesign could be a mindless, algorithmic process of evolution, why couldn't the whole process itself be the product of evolution, and so forth, all the way down? And if mindless evolution could account for the breathtakingly clever artifacts of the biosphere, how could the products of our own "real" minds be exempt from an evolutionary explanation? Darwin's idea thus also threatened to spread all the way up, dissolving the illusion of our own authorship, our own divine spark of creativity and understanding."
  • Lots of work against evolution is about containing this universal acid.
  • 2. Darwin's Assult on the Cosmic Pyramid
  • dist between order and design depends in tradition, on telos. order is just regularity, design has purpose. Darwin claims design can come from order without imposition of mind (that's the lesson the chapter on design space).
  • "Darwin reduced teleology to nonteleology, Design to Order"
  • 65: great quote from an historical objection to Darwin. attempts reductio ad absurdum, but now simply shows incredulity.
  • 67: Can we treat selection as "designed" in total? Does God create evolution to achieve his ends?
  • 3. The Principle of Accumulation of Design
  • we should grant the premise of the Design argument -- appearance of Design is an indication of work done
  • introduces idea of selection as a means of creating local exceptions to the 2nd law of thermodynamics. cites Richard Gregory.
  • 70: funny story illustrating how life is a temporary triumph over the 2nd law. How do you unscramble eggs? Chemically, it would be very hard, but it you feed them to a hen, it's easy.
  • Minds are at the "top" of an evolutionary process in the sense that they have the most design.
  • 72: raises the question of whether it makes more sense to assume a common design process for evolved organisms, or allow for parallel processes (sort of like parallel discovery in industrial design). Later is less likely, you'd want to see the evidence of the prallel process.
  • 4. The Tools for R and D: Skyhooks or Cranes?
  • introduces the terms and shows how Cranes can do the design work in evolution. skyhooks are related to "min first" explpanations.
  • cranes "speed things up"
  • 76: sex is a crane. better than asexual reproduction, allows selection (by sight for example)
  • Baldwin effect: Asked, "How could it be that individual animals, by solving problems in the own lifetimes, could change the conditions of competition for their own offspring, making those prpoblems easaier to solve in the future?"
  • Baldwin discovered that creatures capable of reinforcement learning evolved faster because of a "greater capacity to discover design mprovements in the neighborhood." 79
  • explains why this isn't Lamarkianism. 80
  • 5. Who's Afraid of Reductionism?
  • distinguishes greedy from good reductionism. greedy reductionists think everything can be explained without cranes, good reductionists think everything can be explained without skyhooks.
  • proper reductionism doesn't explain things away, though it might take some of the mystery out of them.

Re: Mizzou and college athletes

this is about another instance of college athlete boycott at BYU. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2015/11/10/mel-hamilton-member-of-wyoming-black-14-on-missouri-boycott-i-had-lost-faith-in-the-young-folks-up-until-now/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_black14-710pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

NOV 18

Study Aid for Derrida, White Mythology

  • Here's an interesting reference article on metaphor and phenomenology. You could go right to the section on Derrida, which has a nice summary of "White Mythology". [11]
  • This famous interview of Derrida isn't so much about White Mythology, but it is worth 10 minutes to hear JD explain the situation of the subject, especially the political subject. [12]

David Papineau, Physicalism


-seems odd that thoughts are physical, but if not how can they interact with the world?


everything is physical, applied to mind as well

-How can things not physical have effects? Not incoherent for non-physical to have effect, but last 200 years of science suggests this principle.

-Isn't this an assumption of science? No, science used to allow, forces of contact, gravitation, vital forces, mental forces. Some of these look non-physical to us.

-conservation of energy and study of bodies made the difference.

-Possible that something non-physical is there, just lots of evidence against.

-epiphenomenolism - mind not physical, just there for the ride.

What about qualia? They don't seem reducible. Mary's Room thought experiment. Jackson: Mary gains new knowledge with first experience of color. Additional fact must be non-physical. Physicalism is false.

Response: Mary had a new experience. New brain process. No problem there, but problem if she knows something new. Papineau's approach: Mary is changed, but her new knowledge is something she new under scientific description. She acquires a new concept of seeing something red.

-Importance of openness in Newtonian thought to non-physical forces. At that time, most scientists were dualists. Late 19th evidence tips. Dualist "on the back foot"

Papineau's voice?

NOV 25


Meat Arguments

- note: related arguments apply to animals for research, working animals, and pets.

Haynes and Francione, "The Myth of Happy Meat" and "Animal Welfare, Happy Meat, and Veganism as the Moral Baseline"

  • Haynes:
  • distinguishes welfarist/libertionist position, thesis: difference between welfarist and liberationist disappears on conceptual analysis.
  • analysis: Sumner's theory of human welfare: "justified satisfaction with life" for non-human animals, this would be relativized to "natural animals behaviors". basis obligation to animals in part on custodial relationship. Therefore, true welfarism is equivalent to liberationism (?) Article seems to end abruptly.
  • [Note: Haynes' analysis could be satisfied by caring pet owner or in dairying, yet a true liberationist might want to get rid of pets.]
  • Francione:
  • distinguishes welfarist position: welfarists generally agree that humans are morally more important than animals.
  • core welfarist argument justifying carnivores: animals may be sentient, but not self-aware, live in an "eternal present," therefore they do not have an interest in continued existence. We suffer this problem because of our superior mental powers.
  • counter arguments: sentience not an end in itself, but has the purpose of prolonging existence. Odd to say that you can have sentience and not be focused (consciously or not) on your continued existence. Tought experiment: Could you kill and eat someone with transient global amnesia?
  • Alfino, Report of the Mission to Observe Colony B

Philosophy of Food

  • Brief look at Food Studies and the questions raised by a philosophy of food
  • Boisvert: A brief overview of the position of philosophy in relation to food: philosophy / stomach incompatibility, un-forgetting the stomach,

Montanari, "Food is Culture"

  • For ancients, agriculture was thought of as a "break" from nature.
  • Breadeaters in Illiad and Odyssey, in Gilgamesh (Mesootamia 2k bc), man is wild until he knows bread. (Note connection with woman/prostitute.)
  • Ironically, we conceive of new food habits as a "return" to Nature.
  • Agriculture likely a product of necessity rather than choice: Fall myths are thought to be about the transition from gathering to agriculture.
  • Thesis: Food culture is originary culture. Food is culture.
  • Food/Culture myths
  • Rice for Asians; corn for Native Americans, the Great Hog for Germans, wheat for Mediterranean culture (Persephone/Demeter).
  • Greco-Latin food culture reflected in Christianity: bread, wine, oil.
  • How does food culture work?
  • transformation of time: Eden as eternal, no seasons. "Land of Cockaigne"
  • diversification of varieties, plant species, conservation (smoke, salt, heat, freezing, canning, fermentation)
  • transformation of space: transport, status associated with privilege of fresh food year round.
  • conflict: power and food: peasant rebellions, Robin Hood, rural famines, cities indenture countryside, Columbus, Syria (?)
  • From Food to Cuisine
  • Fire -- cooking -- kitchen -- cuisine -- civilzation -- While acknowledging that cooking is not the exclusive means of transforming food, Montanari argues that it is paradigmatic, especially in the West. What emerges from food transformation in any culture, however is a practice of eating that has its source in the kitchen (and is linked to the feminine, except in restaurant culture) and its expression in cuisine.

A Philosophy of Food

  • What is Food? Can't be answered in terms of nutrition alone. Examples from food policy and politics of problems of "nutritionism".
  • Implications of Food as primary culture:
  • If food is culture in Montanari's sense, then we should approach food with more of the assumptions that we use for religion than for engineering. Our diets are often held with a sense of imperative and relationship to sustaining not only life but a "felt sense" of health that is partly communicated to us socially. Consider the protein intake of diets around the world [13].
  • What are the dominant values, behaviors, and effects of the US food system:
  • high protein diets with inexpensive fresh meats, beef trending down, chicken up. (history of protests against beef price increases)
  • great novelty in processed foods -- Moss, Sugar, Salt, Fat
  • continuous eating, especially through caloric beverages and snacks.
  • low labor participation in agriculture. high acceptance of technology to keep costs low.
  • (in US especially) acceptance of tradeoffs between taste and price.
  • overall low expenditures on food, though comparison is primarily between equally wealthy countries. [14]
  • Start of a food philosophy (briefly diagrammed).