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The title of my address is inspired by an experience I have found to be common among philosophers. I have in the mind the following process. At the start of a project, the issue at hand seems compelling and you hope to have something significant to say about it. If all goes well, you find ways of mapping out the terrain that make it easier and easier to see what to say. And as you near the end of the process, your energy flags, as the points you make begin to seem too obvious for anyone ever to give a damn about it. With success comes a kind of boredom.
In this address, I pursue the idea that much of philosophy is driven by the desire to render everything boring in this way. While the address is designed to be playful, the substance is meant seriously: there is an important sense in which one powerful philosophical impulse may be usefully characterized as the drive towards disenchantment, to render things unperplexing in a manageable fashion. I suggest that (many) philosophers are (often) motivated by their intolerance for things that defy cognitive mastery, and that this drive illuminates various aspects of the culture of contemporary analytic philosophy, including the experience described above that inspired the talk. I address some apparent counter-tendencies (e.g., the desire to perplex students) and suggest how they may be reconciled with that primary drive. At the end, I stress that we should not disown but rather take pride in our desire to take the magic out of things, that we should tout the virtues of making everything boring.
Given the abundant secondary scholarship that has ensued from Kant's discussion of judgments of taste, it is surprising that the question of just what judgments of taste are supposed to be about has never been settled. Rachel Zuckert has recently argued that for Kant, judgments of taste are about objects in the world. I argue, however, that we would do better to read Kant as claiming that judgments of taste are not about determinate objects at all; rather, they are about the relationship between the object's presentation to sensibility and the feeling of pleasure that accompanies that presentation. My reading of Kant has the advantage of staying true to his words, while also saving him from irredeemable aesthetic subjectivism.
In Bayesian confirmation theory, the standard account under which a statement is evidence for an hypothesis is positive relevance. That is, a statement is evidence for an hypothesis if and only if the hypothesis is more probable on the statement than before. Since a statement need only incrementally increase the probability of an hypothesis in order to count as evidence, Peter Achinstein has criticized the condition of positive relevance for being too weak—that is, for allowing too much to be evidence— and thus counterintuitive, and for implying that a statement can both confirm and disconfirm an hypothesis. Achinstein further contends, via counter-examples, that a statement can confirm an hypothesis without increasing its probability. I respond to Achinstein's criticisms by first analyzing a proposed counter-example and showing why it does not work and then criticizing Achinstein's conception of evidence which engenders his counter-example. I then finish by showing that positive relevance is not counterintuitive and does not entail that a statement can both confirm an hypothesis and its negation.
Metaphysical naturalism centers on the claim that any answer to the question "what exists?" must be framed in agreement with our overall best scientific theory of the world. Naturalists hold that objects which play a central role in facilitating the overall simplicity and elegance of our scientific theory are accorded a special status—in short they have attained "indispensability." As advanced by Penelope Maddy, the Argument from Scientific Practice (ASP) is designed to show that indispensability is fundamentally incompatible with another core naturalistic doctrine—ontological relativity. Under ontological relativity, what entities we take to exist is always determined relative to a background theory. Thus, under naturalism it seems that there is no way to determine in an absolute sense what exists. The challenge posed under the ASP is that the naturalist cannot justify commitment to certain indispensable entities given that either there is no empirical test is available (e.g., mathematical objects) or (as in the case of frictionless planes) the entity in question is accepted only as a "useful" fiction which carries no ontological commitment. I argue that even if key features of the ASP are considered, the naturalist still can hold to both the indispensability thesis and ontological relativity.
The article takes Milan Kundera's expanded understanding of kitsch and applies it to the interpretation of absurdity in Ionesco's play Rhinoceros. I draw a distinction between political and philosophical kitsch, and cite various examples of each in the play. The conclusion is that Ionesco was neither a nihilist nor an irrationalist, but rather a careful craftsman who used the character of Berenger as a foil against various forms of bourgeois and totalitarian kitsch.