Constitutivism and the foundations of ethics

My colleague Ariel Zylberman has organized a one-day academic workshop here at UAlbany, coming up on March 15. The topic is constitutivism about moral norms— the view that norms are presumed by the very nature of action and agency.

The powerhouse list of speakers comprises Matthias Haase (Chicago), Michelle Kosch (Cornell), Sharon Street (NYU), and David Velleman (NYU). The official commenters will be Hille Paakkunainen (Syracuse), Francey Russell (Yale), Jason D’Cruz (UAlbany), and Paul Katsafanas (Boston University).

If it sounds like your kind of thing and you might be in the capital region in mid-March, more information and the registration form are at the workshop webpage. It’s a free workshop, but Ariel is asking that attendees register by March 1.

conference poster for constitutivism workshop

Wombats and nineteenth-century opinion

Wombats were admired for their stumpy strength, their patience, their placid, not to say congenial manners, and also a kind of stoic determination. Occasionally they were thought clumsy, insensible or even stupid, but these isolated observations are out of step with the majority of nineteenth-century opinion.

Angus Trumble

In The Public Domain Review, Trumble recounts how Pre-Raphaelite artists were obsessed with wombats and attempts to suss out how they’d learned about them in the first place. Fitting the possible sources into the timetable of modern philosophy, it occurred to me that Kant might have known nothing at all about wombats.

A ridiculous wombat drawn by Edward Burne-Jones.

How blogging went in 2018

My minimal goal with this blog is to post something every month. I surpassed that in 2018, writing 46 entries which comprised over 16K words.

How does this compare to previous years?

The graph below summarizes the results. 2018 was a solidly middling year for blogging. Not the best, but not the worst either.

graph of blog output over time
Blog output per year, normalized so that entries and words can go on the same axis.

The curviness of the lines in the graph is just whatever meaningless smoothing Excel does by default.

At Footnotes on Epicycles, my old blog, I counted years from one blog anniversary to the next. I started the blog on October 4, 2005, so I counted words from one October 4 to the next. In the graph, numbers before 2015 are nudged to the nearest calendar year.

With 2015, I switched to counting by calendar years. So 2015 was worse than it looks in the graph, because I’ve added late 2014 and 2015 together to cover the gap.

When artists are terrible people

Aesthetics for Birds has reposted a symposium from Daily Nous on the question of whether we can separate considerations about artwork from considerations about the artist who created it. By way of my summer reading and current procrastinating at the end of the semester, here’s a comment on the topic.

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Wombat facts

A. The name “News For Wombats” is a reference to a Monty Python bit.

B. Wombats poop cubes. There’s a recent study that’s been discussed widely on the internet about the mechanism by which they do this.

C. When I picked it as my Twitter handle, I didn’t realize how hard it would be to draw a wombat. The shaggy wombat sketch was my only successful attempt for the longest time. My attempts would end up looking like a bear, a monkey, or (sometimes) a pig.

After much practice, I’ve gotten a bit better. So today I updated the header graphic.

shaggy wombat sketch
The sketch that served as the blog header for a long time.

What’s so funny about credence, love, and understanding?

I can’t tell if Suki Finn’s Beyond Reason: The Mathematical Equation for Unconditional Love is meant to be taken seriously or not. Irony on the internet is usually indistinguishable from earnestness. The fact that there is an addendum with a mathematical proof may indicate that it’s serious, but maybe it’s a droll bit of farce?1

I read it with interest, in any case. Finn offers an analysis of conditional and unconditional love that is modeled on conditional and unconditional credence. As I’ve discussed in some recent posts, I think that recognizing the difference between conditional and unconditional value is crucial for understanding the relation between values and belief.2

Continue reading “What’s so funny about credence, love, and understanding?”

Hot takes on Controversial Ideas

I’ve run into lots of posts and news about The Journal of Controversial Ideas, both from philosophers who you’d expect to be talking about this thing and elsewhere.1 The journal, organized by Jeff McMahan, Peter Singer, Francesca Minerva and others, is meant to be a forum for scholarly papers which scholars would be afraid to publish elsewhere. To shield authors from blowback, all the papers will be published anonymously.

A. Lots of people have commented that the new journal is likely to be a cesspool of racism, sexism, and other terrible views which people like to pretend they can’t talk about. I suggest this modest principle: If the president can tweet a view, then there are already sufficient venues for its expression.

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Books from #PSA2018

Yesterday I traveled back from the Philosophy of Science Association biennial meeting in Seattle. I got to hang out with a bunch of friends in the discipline and meet lots of new ones. There are other people who I saw in passing, had every intention of catching up with, but then didn’t see again in the throng.

This was, I’m told, the largest PSA meeting ever. Part of that is driven by the increased number of ways for people to be on the program. This was only the second PSA with a poster session, but the poster session was so large that I didn’t see everything before time was up.

One thing I always enjoy about the PSA is the book exhibit.1 Although I mostly consume philosophy in electronic form these days, I always come home from the PSA with a few dead-tree books. Usually these are things I hadn’t even known about beforehand, and this time there were two of those.

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Revising details in forall x

I’m teaching Introduction to Logic for the first time in several years. The course text is my own forall x. It’s always been an open textbook, even back before I had good vocabulary for explaining what that means. But now it’s available from SUNY OER Services, and they’ve partnered with SUNY Press so that my students are able to buy a hardcopy from the campus bookstore for just $8.50.

Working through it this time, I’ve hit a couple of things which I am considering changing.

Continue reading “Revising details in forall x”