New fallacies: diving rod, palm reader

Via Daily Nous, I encountered two new informal fallacies. Keith Payne, Laura Niemi, and John Doris coin them in writing about implicit bias at Scientific American.

  1. picture of a philosopherthe divining rod fallacy: On the basis of an instrument or scale for measurement being problematic, inferring that the property which it measures is not real. “[J]ust because a rod doesn’t find water doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as water.”
  2. the palm reading fallacy: Expecting psychological or sociological phenomena which occur at the group level to yield predictions about particular group members. “[U]nlike palm readers, research psychologists aren’t usually in the business of telling you, as an individual, what your life holds in store.”

You should feel free to diagnose these fallacies in the arguments of your interlocutors. I’ve added them to my list.

Obliterative and therapeutic pragmatisms

I’ve been blogging recently about whether “pragmatism” is a sufficiently precise term to be one which we ought to use, apart from its being historically entrenched. In the course of reading Dewey again, I’m thinking about another aspect of the pragmatist tradition.

James says that pragmatism is, in one sense, a method. It’s typically expressed by the pragmatic maxim that discovering the meaning of a concept is best done by tracing out its practical consequences.

This method alone can still lead to abstruse metaphysics. Continue reading “Obliterative and therapeutic pragmatisms”

Covers in HiPhi

Last Summer, Cristyn and I went down to Poughkeepsie to talk with Barry Lam about cover songs. The episode of his podcast featuring us dropped today.

Cover Me Softly

Barry has other guests who address historical and musicological issues. I’m chuffed, though, that the distinctions form my paper with Cristyn and Christy  provided the philosophical thread of the episode.

The whole episode is genuinely interesting and engaging, and I think I’d say so even if I didn’t figure in it. I was actually surprised that I didn’t wince at hearing my own recorded voice, testament perhaps to Barry’s skills as a recording engineer.

Boyd’s pragmatist theory of reference, maybe

In the previous post, I suggested that there might be no unified “pragmatism”. By this I meant that we wouldn’t (as a matter of philosophical method) want to invent the term if it weren’t (as a matter of the history of philosophy) already entrenched and an actors’ category. I’m not sure if I want to take that back, but I do want to talk about something in the neighborhood of “pragmatism” that probably deserves a name.

In the Pragmatism lectures, William James insists that pragmatism makes meaning and truth a matter of what will happen in the future. Continue reading “Boyd’s pragmatist theory of reference, maybe”

📝: 📚 or 💀? 💀.

As I student, I wrote lots of papers. It was clear when I was done with a paper, because I turned it in and got a grade. As a professor, I write with an eye towards publishing. When I’m happy enough with a paper, I submit it somewhere. When it’s rejected, then what?1

Rejection is a strange and ambiguous thing. Sometimes rejection is because the journal had too many submissions or because the referee was just cranky. There’s no extra stamp to indicate that the paper just isn’t publishable.2  I revise it or don’t, and then I submit it somewhere else. Some papers, even ones that find a good home in the end, are rejected multiple times.

Continue reading “📝: 📚 or 💀? 💀.”

Colloquium, as you like it

Next month Kareem Khalifa (Middlebury College) is visiting Albany to present work that he developed in collaboration with Emily Sullivan (Delft University of Technology).

Will it turn out to be a comedy of errors, or can they show that the sound and fury about the epistemic role of idealization is just a tempest in a teapot? Either way would be interesting, and all’s well that ends well.

Idealizations and Understanding: Much Ado About Nothing?

3:00-5:00, March 9, 2018

UAlbany Humanities Building, room 354

Abstract: Idealizations frequently advance scientific understanding. Because of this, many have argued that understanding is non-factive or that falsehoods play a distinct epistemic role. In this paper, we argue that these positions greatly overstate idealizations’ epistemic import. We bring work on epistemic value to bear on the debate surrounding idealizations and understanding, arguing that idealizations qua falsehoods only have non-epistemic value. We argue for this claim by criticizing the four leading approaches that give epistemic importance to idealizations. For each of these approaches, we show that: (a) idealizations’ false components only promote psychological convenience instead of the epistemic good of understanding, and (b) only the true components of idealizations have epistemic value.

Emerson and the philosophy guru

On Facebook, Clayton Littlejohn posts this question:

Imagine there were a philosophy guru. You could ask the guru questions, get the guru’s answer, the answers would always be right, but the answers wouldn’t come with arguments or explanations. … If you wrote those answers down … would you be doing philosophy?

Numerous respondents say NO, on the grounds that philosophy involves giving arguments. It’s the game of giving and asking for reasons. Mere answers aren’t reasons.1

I’ve been mulling over related issues because I taught Emerson last week in my pragmatism seminar. Continue reading “Emerson and the philosophy guru”