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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The fixation of lecture notes

My general workflow is to write notes by hand the first time I teach something. If I teach it again, I type up those notes— making changes as I do— and print them out. When I teach it the time after that, I pencil in revisions on the print out from the time before. For things I teach many times, I eventually incorporate the revisions into the file and print a fresh copy.

This means that I’m not just phoning in the same lecture every time, but I’m also not starting from scratch every time. Incremental refinement.

Today I’m teaching Peirce’s essay “The Fixation of Belief” in my Understanding Science class. I was preparing for class and realized that my marked printout was originally composed for Understanding Science in Fall 2012. Since it’s been almost ten years, I figure it’s time to revise the file and print a fresh one.

Celebration and title ruminations

I just found out today that my book on the philosophy of cover songs has been accepted for publication! Both referees said that the manuscript could be published as is, but of course went on for pages with comments about how it might be improved.

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The limits of risk

My paper, The scope of inductive risk, has been accepted at the journal Metaphilosophy. I’m told it will appear in the January 2022 issue.

Abstract: The Argument from Inductive Risk (AIR) is taken to show that values are inevitably involved in making judgements or forming beliefs. After reviewing this conclusion, I pose cases which are prima facie counterexamples: the unreflective application of conventions, use of black-boxed instruments, reliance on opaque algorithms, and unskilled observation reports. These cases are counterexamples to the AIR posed in ethical terms as a matter of personal values. Nevertheless, it need not be understood in those terms. The values which load a theory choice may be those of institutions or past actors. This means that the challenge of responsibly handling inductive risk is not merely an ethical issue, but is also social, political, and historical.

Season songs’ revenge

One side effect of the pandemic is that I’m out and about less, so I hear less programmed Christmas music. Here’s a flashback to pre-pandemic times, when I did a series of posts about my favorite holiday songs. I’m not sure the list would be any different this year.

  1. Fairytale of New York
  2. The Boar’s Head
  3. Fuck You If You Don’t Like Christmas
  4. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
  5. It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
  6. Good King Wenceslas
  7. Greensleeves
a boar carrying a tray of food