Curation

In a recent blog post, Les Green draws a distinction between research and scholarship. The former he characterizes as “[finding] out something [you] didn’t know, but which was there to be known”; the latter involves keeping up with the literature and making novel arguments. He distinguishes both of those from another thing philosophers do which he calls curating. He characterizes it this way:

A curator attempts to care for knowledge and culture we already have. Not by freezing it or ensuring no others can touch it, but by conserving it while placing it in a new context, or displaying it from a new angle, or in the company of new ideas, so as to make it intelligible and perhaps useful to those who follow us.

This captures an important feature of philosophy which is absent from (e.g) physics.1

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Inflate and explode, analyze or explicate

Over at The Splintered Mind, Eric Schwitzgebel identifies what he calls the inflate-and-explode maneuver. Abstractly, the move is this: “Assume that things of Type X must have Property A, and then argue that nothing has Property A.”

Schwitzgebel is especially interested in the case of consciousness. On many accounts, one is supposed to have infallible access to the contents of one’s consciousness. However, one doesn’t have infallible access to anything. Having thus inflated consciousness with the pompous swell of infallibility, one blows it up— there is no such thing as consciousness!

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Personal interpretation

In a post at Cover Me, Riley Haas describes Depeche Mode’s 1990 song Personal Jesus as having “sex appeal with a sinister undercurrent of dominance and submission.” Michelle Kash, whose cover is featured in the post, “said she aimed to turn it from a song about a man dominating every aspect of a woman’s life to a song about sexual freedom.”

There’s breathy sex appeal in the original, sure, but I had always thought of that as just Depeche Mode being Depeche Mode. They could write a song about standing in line at the Orange Julius, and it would have sex appeal and an undercurrent of D&S.

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An uncanny visage

One of the regulars at a local game night takes lots of candid photos and posts them to the group’s Facebook page. I idly click through them when he uploads a new batch, looking to see what other people were playing. When I saw one recent photo, I looked at the group of players and didn’t recognize one of them. Who’s that, I thought, before realizing it was me.1

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Philbio grad conference

For many years now, the graduate students in my department have hosted an annual graduate conference. This year’s topic is philosophy of biology.

I’ve gotten a lot out of attending over the years. There’s a specified topic, so all the papers are at least peripherally related. There’s only one track, so every speaker gets the attention of all the attendees.

If you are a grad student working in philbio, consider submitting an abstract. If you know a grad student working in philbio, consider nudging them to submit.

Here’s the official call:

The University at Albany Philosophical Association will hold its 13th Annual Graduate Conference on April 4th, 2020. Our topic is Philosophy of Biology, and our Keynote Speaker is Justin Garson (Hunter College, CUNY). The deadline is January 5th.1 We would greatly appreciate it if you would circulate the following call for papers amongst the graduate students in your Department.

https://philevents.org/event/show/77738

Sounds of the season, day 7

This week of posting my favorite holiday songs concludes with one that’s only tenuously a holiday song.

“Greensleeves” has an alternate set of lyrics which are about baby Jesus, making it a Christmas song. But the original lyrics are just more fun to sing, so let’s sing those instead. It has a million verses, but everyone can sing the chorus.

a woodpecker playing a holiday tune

Sounds of the season, day 6

“Good King Wenceslas” (YouTube) is a song I learned in elementary school. The narrative is actually pretty weird. A king’s magical powers are downplayed in favor of extolling charity and sharing.

What sells it for me is the extra verse, which I saw years later in an episode of Phineas&Ferb (Wiki). Buford Von Stomm, in order to establish that he knows the whole story, gives us this:

The words were by an English guy.
The music, Scandinavian.
Wenceslas was five-foot-six.
He kept his face unshaven.
Though just a duke throughout his life,
He always ruled so justly
His kingly title was conferred
Upon him posthumously.