A post about a post at another blog that I wrote about a thing I wrote

My publisher asked for a short post to accompany the release of my book. It covers similar ground to one or two posts I’ve made here, but with a few twists.

The following was originally posted at the Open Book Publishers blog.

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Overconfidence about overconfidence

Recently, someone I follow on Twitter linked to a story by Katie MacBride titled “Overconfidence kills: The CDC and WHO still haven’t learned how to effectively communicate uncertainty.” That seemed right to me, so I clicked ❤️, followed the link, and read the story. Despite agreeing with the thesis, the actual article gets so much wrong that I went back and withdrew my ❤️ from the Tweet linking to it. This isn’t something I do very often.

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Clusters without cluster concepts

Philosophers try to understand things. One traditional way that goes is to provide a definition. Q: What is knowledge? A: Something is knowledge if and only if it is justified true belief. K=JTB.

Attempts to give necessary and sufficient conditions in this way typically fail. JTB is insufficient, and a literature pops up suggesting some additional condition, so that K=JTB+X. Some later philosophers pass quickly over the difficulty, not bothering to fill in a value for X and suggesting that for their purposes we can just focus on the JTB part.

A popular alternative since the mid-1900s has been to analyze in terms of cluster concepts. When X, Y, and Z all seem relevant but none seem either necessary or sufficient, say instead that the concept is a cluster formed by those criteria. This has been a common move for analyzing art.1

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Some thoughts about Epistemic Hiding

I’m teaching Theory of Knowledge this semester, and last week we discussed Nathan Ballantyne’s “Epistemic Trespassing.” The title refers to when an expert makes claims outside their field of expertise. Ballantyne gives the example of the chemist Linus Pauling making strong claims about the value of Vitamin C. Pauling’s claims were influential even though he was making false claims well outside his speciality.

A student pointed out that trespassing is a matter of overconfidence, so there may be a counterpart problem resulting from insufficient confidence. That is, an expert might decline to make claims within their field of expertise because of an excess of epistemic modesty. In our conversation, I called this the problem of Hiding in Your Epistemic Attic. For the sake of brevity, call this Epistemic Hiding.1

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A thing I’ll be doing in June

This is going to be a thing.

The Ethics of Cover Songs

Friday, June 10, 3:00-5:00 EDT via Zoom

A cover song, on a typical definition, is a recording of a song that had earlier been recorded by someone else. Philosophers of music considering cover songs have debated the adequacy of this definition, argued about the aesthetic evaluation of covers, and worried about their metaphysical status. This panel asks instead about ethical issues that arise from recorded music. Are there obligations which artists have when recording covers? If there are, do they arise from general ethical considerations or from norms within musical communities?

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Doggerel by chapter

Last week I was assembling the index for A Philosophy of Cover Songs. No release date yet, but soon.

I’ve previously posted a bit of the introduction and the epilogue. Last month, in a moment of perversity, I also wrote a summary of each chapter in haiku. I had entirely forgotten doing that until I saw the file yesterday. It’s in a directory of things written for the blog, so clearly it should be posted here.

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What it says at the end

The final draft of my book A Philosophy of Cover Songs has been sent off to the publisher, so I’m waiting on feedback from the proofreader. Over on Twitter, Pete Vickers asks for the take-home message of the book in one sentence. The one-sentence version would be a grammatically dubious monstrosity, so here instead is the epilogue in which I try to sum it all up:

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
And many times confused.

Willie Nelson, covering Paul Simon’s ‘American Tune’ (1993)

So where does this wide-ranging discussion of covers leave us?

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