Imagination, philosophy, and imitation games

Via Daily Nous, I came across a blog post by Justin Smith-Ruiu about creative writing as philosophy. The post is, ultimately, an argument that philosophy can be “incitement of the imagination, by creative means, to see the world in unfamiliar ways.” I agree with that! But there are digressions along the way that range from false speculation to attacks on the kind of philosophy that I (sometimes) do.

Continue reading “Imagination, philosophy, and imitation games”

All-some and a rhetorical misstep

John Norton breezes through an example of a deductive inference so as to characterize induction by contrast. His example of a valid deductive inference form is: “All As are B. Therefore, some As are B.” He even dubs this the all-some schema.1

It is a perplexing example. In old-school Aristotelean logic, the all-some schema is valid. In modern first-order logic, however, A may be an empty predicate. There being no As makes ∀x(Ax→Bx) true and ∃x(Ax&Bx) false, showing that the schema is invalid.

This got me thinking about whether the modern reading of the schema is really better than the classical one. I think it is.

Continue reading “All-some and a rhetorical misstep”

Textbooks in philosophy

At Daily Nous, Curtis Franks provides a summary of OER and free logic textbooks and courseware. On Mastodon, Anthony Eagle comments: “It is so great that there is so much effort by philosophers on this part of the textbook market; maybe we should now turn to other areas.” I sympathize.

I’ve written OER notes on scientific inference, which cover the difference between deduction and induction, problem of inductions, and underdetermination. I’ve often thought I should extend it out to be a whole textbook. There are several reasons that I haven’t.1

Continue reading “Textbooks in philosophy”

What pragmatism is today

Every time I teach pragmatism, I reread some of the canonical sources and rethink what “pragmatism” means. Several years ago, I suggested that the term might just be a mistake— that there is too much difference between the so-called pragmatists, making the word more confusing than helpful. Some years later, I softened this view. Now I find myself thinking that there are a few core commitments which can be definitive of pragmatism.1

Continue reading “What pragmatism is today”

Pragmatism and current events

On Wednesday in my pragmatism class, we discussed Jane Addams’ Democracy and Social Ethics. In one chapter, Addams’ central example is the Pullman strike of 1894. Writing circa 1900, she relies on readers remembering how that went down. She writes, “Let us recall the facts, not as they have been investigated and printed, but as they remain in our memories.”

So I asked the class whether there were any current events that might have a similar structure. I suggested Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, from a certain point of view. Insofar as Musk was motivated by thoughts about how this locus of public discourse could be better, he was motivated by his own personal conception of what’s good. He was not concerned with what Twitter users might actually want or with their actual lived situations.

It is not a perfect parallel, I conceded. Addams’ example works especially because Pullman owned the whole town. Twitter, even for its most avid users, is just one corner of their lives.

Yesterday, I woke to headlines like Elon Musk Is Planning a ‘Utopian’ Company Town. It’s the 1890s all over again, man.

“Transcendentalism” and other free stuff

In my Pragmatism course, I spend a week on the transcendentalists before getting to pragmatism as such. Setting things up this time, I realized that I’m still using the PDF of Theodore Parker’s “Transcendentalism” lecture which I scanned back in 2003. It’s not pretty. Since the essay is in the public domain, there should be something better. So I started from the OCR text, cleaned it up, set it up in LaTeX, and generated a nice PDF.

I have posted it as part of my repository of free texts in pragmatism and American philosophy.

Continue reading ““Transcendentalism” and other free stuff”

AI can’t let me see Karl Marx

Back in September, I wrote a post about generative AI and photographic transparency. The gist of it was this: Kendall Walton famously argued that I actually see Karl Marx when I look at a photograph of him, in a way I don’t when I look at a painting. The painting is mediated by the beliefs of the painter in a way that the photograph is not mediated by the photographer’s beliefs. So, I asked, what about an AI-generated image of Marx?

As I said in a footnote to that post, I wasn’t very happy with my answer to the question. As it happens, my Philosophy of Art class got interested in photographic transparency all on their own. So I made a mid-semester adjustment, added it to the syllabus, reread the Walton essay, and taught it to students in October. It turns out there was a part of the essay that I had forgotten when I wrote my post in September, and Walton gives us the resources for a better answer to the puzzle of AI-generated images.

Continue reading “AI can’t let me see Karl Marx”

A column, an address, a garden

  • A public-facing article that I wrote about cover songs appeared today at Psyche under the title They’re playing our song! The philosophical puzzle of cover songs. I was prompted to focus on just a single example, so most of my discussion revolves around “‘Crazy’ – not the Gnarls Barkley song, but the Patsy Cline song.” There’s some new stuff in it, although nothing that wasn’t at least anticipated in my earlier work.
  • Given the much-discussed mishegas, I’ve stopped using Twitter. My idle moments scrolling and posting have moved to Mastodon, where I’m
  • My Philosophy of Art class is winding down, so I’m getting some summary student feedback. I asked students which of the artworks that we discussed was their favourite. The winner, by a large margin, was Martha Schwartz’s Bagel Garden.
Continue reading “A column, an address, a garden”

What to call the fact that science traffics in assumptions?

I regularly teach a course called Understanding Science, an introduction to some issues in philosophy of science and science studies. One topic is the nature of inference: deduction, the fact that scientific inference is (largely) non-deductive, and the problem of induction.1

Continue reading “What to call the fact that science traffics in assumptions?”

Robot overlords win blue ribbon (not really)

I’m teaching Philosophy of Art this semester, and a student pointed me to an Ars Technica story with the headline AI wins state fair art contest, annoys humans. Jason Allen used Midjourney (the same AI that I was playing with recently) to make some images and enter them in the Colorado State Fair art contest. One of those images won first place in the Digital Arts/Digitally Manipulated Photography category.

There’s lots of discussion about whether this is the end for human artists (it’s not), whether this shows that AI are now making real art (no), and whether the submission of AI-generated images to the State Fair was dishonest (maybe).

Continue reading “Robot overlords win blue ribbon (not really)”