This paper reflects on an article that appeared after the death of A.J. Ayer, which complains about what British philosophers focus on. I propose that the content of the philosophy curriculum can be predicted from a rational actor model.
Timothy Williamson objects that we do not have any reason to regard reflective equilibrium as a philosophical method, whether good or bad. In this paper, I propose a less demanding account of when a method is being described.
How well do we understand our own societies? In this paper, I raise quite obvious puzzles for Diego Gambetta and Gloria Origgi’s depiction of Italy as a kakonomy and Kathleen Stock’s depiction of ordinary people.
I distinguish two senses of the word “deconstruction.” Then I quote a passage by a critic from the 1860s which, together with trends of that time, gives rise to the question of whether deconstructive interpretation existed in the nineteenth century.
In this paper, I present a problem for regarding the reflective equilibrium and original position methods as consistent. I do not prove that there is an inconsistency, but there is a puzzle of how the two methods can be made consistent. The concern about inconsistency is because the former method allows for a kind of historical bias, as noted by T.H. Irwin, whereas the latter method seeks to guard against historical bias.
Should one read T.H. Irwin’s three volume history of Western ethics, or parts of it? Here one might turn to reviews. The journal The Philosophical Forum uses the sensible strategy of getting different specialists to review different parts of the book. There are two chapters on Rawls, each one reviewed by a Rawlsian. I wish to register discontent with Steven Ross’s review.
I draw attention to how one of Donald Davidson’s arguments against the claim that others have an alternative conceptual scheme does not look compatible with his rejection of analytic truths – how his rejection of the third dogma of empiricism depends on accepting the first. The appendix contests Davidson’s approach to organizing the Pacific Ocean.
This paper responds to the question of whether the Internet has made lectures obsolete and Matthew Pickles’ investigation of why lectures persist. It is written as a pastiche of R.K. Narayan, about whom a somewhat parallel question is probably asked. Pickles refers to a logic lecturer so dry people went swimming, and a pastiche approach is an alternative.
This paper is a pastiche of the Lacanian philosopher Renata Salecl, my fourth attempt, combined with a note. In it I present a response I anticipate from analytic philosophy to the thesis that the signifier has priority over the signified: that this thesis is either trivially true or obviously false.
In “Conceptual Differences Between Children and Adults,” Susan Carey discusses phlogiston theory in order to defend the view that there can be non-translatability between scientific languages. I present an objection to her defence.
I am not sure who said that liberalism merely alternates between ethics and economics – was it Karl Kraus? – but at first glance the claim is plausible. In this paper I argue that there are varieties of liberalism which do not. Some depend on a nature-culture distinction and some appeal to simplicity in a way that seems aesthetic. In the appendix I introduce a problem for utilitarianism.
In this paper, I present some responses to an argument made by an economist in an online video: that when Britain leaves the European Union, it will be taking many high ranking universities with it, which will lead to an innovation deficit in the union. I present some responses by means of a pastiche of a widely read European fiction writer.
This paper is a response to Kathleen Stock’s book Material Girls, by way of imitation. I have attempted to write a faux chapter in the book’s style, identifying four moments in overcoming the low-high culture divide in responses to the arts.
I consider the place of Saul Kripke and what to make of accusations against him. I raise the problem of evaluating such accusations in an environment of false accusations. I end with a response to a remark by Wittgenstein.
In her paper ‘An Awkward Relationship: the Case of Feminism and Anthropology’, Marilyn Strathern argues that feminist research cannot produce a paradigm shift in social anthropology. I reconstruct her arguments and evaluate them, revealing that they are insufficient for ruling out this possibility.
I present some objections to traditional literary interpretation and consider subversive interpretation as a solution to these problems. Subversive interpretation may seem more scientific and more democratic than traditional interpretation, but it is open to doubt that it is more democratic.
The professor of psychopathology Simon Baron-Cohen claims that males are on average stronger at systematizing than empathizing and females are on average stronger at empathizing than systematizing. Systematizing is defined as the drive to construct or understand systems. In this paper, I observe that Baron-Cohen overlooks certain examples of systems, examples which lead to doubts about his claim.
What is R.K. Narayan’s position in relation to his story “Such perfection”? It is natural to interpret him as conveying a message similar to one Western readers are familiar with from ancient Greek myths: fear perfection; it offends the gods. But there is room for a more complicated interpretation.
This paper evaluates Jonathan Quong’s attempt to defend a version of political liberalism from the asymmetry objection. I object that Quong’s defence relies on a premise that has not been adequately supported and does not look as if it can be given adequate support.
This paper evaluates an argument for the conclusion that in order to produce a viable objection to a particular error theory, the objection must not be applicable to any error theory. The reason given for this conclusion is that error theories about some discourses are uncontroversial. But the examples given of uncontroversial error theories are not good ones, nor do there appear to be other examples available.
The professor of psychopathology Simon Baron-Cohen is well-known for his thesis that males are on average better at systematizing than empathizing and females are on average better at empathizing than systematizing. In this paper, I note an ambiguity in how he defines systematizing.
H.L.A. Hart objects to John Rawls’s liberty principle by drawing attention to how our legal system accepts the restriction of liberty to protect against other harms than liberty-deprivation, such as by laws against slander, libel, and publications which grossly infringe privacy. What is the solution for John Rawls, faced with this criticism? One solution is, by the reflective equilibrium method, to justify abandoning the judgment that these actions are immoral.
This paper responds to Shashi Tharoor’s criticism that “much of Narayan’s prose reads like a translation.” He does not name any writers in another language to back up his claim and without doing so there is an explanation for his impression, but one which leaves it looking misleading.
What if, instead of a scandal, Jacques Derrida had been accepted by the community of analytic philosophers? My prediction is that little-known philosophers would make points like some which I have made: counterexamples to his claims. There is a different reaction to the question which I consider though, according to which these skills do not just transfer from topic to topic and would not be “activated” by Derrida’s philosophy.
I consider the opening to a paper by Jerry Fodor referring to graffiti in the subway stations and what Helen Beebee once said about it in her essay writing guide. I used to just pass over that stuff, but now I find it may be more important.
Jacques Derrida famously claims that the Western philosophical tradition has privileged speech over writing. In this paper, I present two teaching-related contexts in which it makes sense to privilege writing over speech.
Joel Smith’s definition of empathy is likely to be objected to as discriminating against high functioning autistics, if this is a politically correct description. Also there are difficulties with cross-cultural application, owing to its first condition.
Shashi Tharoor criticizes R.K. Narayan for using expressions that seemed to have been learnt from a school textbook and have been hollowed by repetition. But he does so using an expression that sounds as if from school. What are we to make of this? I propose that it undermines one of his other criticisms, which is that Narayan’s style reflects his narrow experience and cannot be used beyond that range.
When Milan Kundera introduces the concept of graphomania, he seems to register only two extremes: the person who writes for a few known people and the person who writes for a very large audience. Joe Horton’s all-or-nothing problem provides a way of making sense of this conceptualization of the situation, though in a way that breaks with Kundera’s emphasis on a writer’s craving for audience attention.
This paper examines Timothy Gowers’ attempt to counter a mythology of genius in mathematics: that to be a mathematician one has to be a mathematical genius. Someone might take such attacks on the myth of genius as expressions of envy, but I propose that there is another reason for cautioning against placing a high value on genius, by turning to research in the humanities.
We associate the method of reflective equilibrium with developing principles of social justice, but it can also be used on a literary canon, with the aim of identifying principles of inclusion and exclusion. But I note three risks of doing so, using the American literary canon as an example.
Apparently the Western philosophical tradition has (wrongly) preferred speech over writing – so claims Jacques Derrida. In this paper, I consider whether utilitarianism involves such a preference. There are at least two arguments against the claim.
I raise a worry that Shashi Tharoor’s criticism that “much of Narayan’s prose reads like a translation” is inconsistent with his criticism “the ABC of bad writing – archaisms, banalities and cliches – abounded” because these things tend to be worded in a way that exploits local linguistic features, such as alliteration, making translation difficult. I also flag another inconsistency worry, but earlier in this paper.
This paper responds to Mary Beard’s assessment of the claim that Frazer’s book The Golden Bough was popular because it provided practical aid for colonialists. Beard rejects this as an inadequate explanation: reference to colonialism is part of an adequate explanation, but a full explanation must go beyond this particular ism. I present two objections to the case she makes for her inadequacy conclusion, though I don’t think his book aided much with colonialism.
The students’ argument against the possibility of a surprise exam assumes that the following would not occur: the teacher decides to give the exam on a certain day; the teacher believes that the exam would be a surprise on that day; but, actually, the exam would not be a surprise on that day. I give a reason to reject this assumption, and I point out that an attempt to reformulate the surprise exam paradox in order to allow for the assumption (...) does not result in an acceptable argument. (shrink)
I introduce the obvious thought that who counts as an analytic philosopher and what counts as analytic philosophy is partly determined by what may be called political factors. It may be the case that work T428 would ordinarily count as analytic philosophy, but it cannot be counted without admitting work C88+ and there is an interest in preventing work C88+ from being admitted.
John Rawls famously prioritized the protection of liberty rights over realizing an economy which is better for the worst off. But his arguments have been disputed. I present a somewhat alternative approach.
This brief paper reviews language and presentation in a match report by Oliver Yew, senior football journalist for Sky Sports. I praise the bullet point summary, I note inconsistency in tenses used, and I ask after the definition of a consolation goal, presenting my own understanding.
This paper proposes a solution to a puzzle regarding when people switch from one skilled area of specialization to another, in which they have had little training. Certain analogies between the previous area and the area switched to enable this. I use Susan Carey as an example.
T.H. Irwin characterizes the reflective equilibrium procedure as one which should not involve ruthless surgery, in a metaphorical sense. I argue that many people will find avoiding this difficult, because they do not conceive or go in for subtle options.
This brief paper asks how Lorenzo Cañás Bottos could bring himself to write comments on Nigel Rapport, after his Key Concepts in Social and Cultural Anthropology, with Joanna Overing! The title of my paper may be a bit misleading, but I present two futures for Argentine families, which start out similar, relating their conceptions of society to British anthropology.