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Why is so much philosophy so tedious? Not, or not simply, because it is technical and complex, but because—too often—it displays mere cleverness. Implausible theories are defended against objections by ever more sophisticated technical fiddling with the details. Originality and creativity are in short supply. I argue that this is bad for philosophy, bad for philosophers, and almost inevitable given various structural features of the profession which require early and prolific publication. As a profession we are autonomous—we could change our structures if we chose.
Following the suggestion of Naomi Scheman in her essay, “Forms of Life: Mapping the Rough Ground” in The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein, I undertake to expand on her idea that Wittgenstein’s project can be fruitfully compared to Dorothy’s task in the classic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy, after dreaming of finding a trouble-free place over the rainbow, that is, above the troubles she faced in Kansas, embodied in Miss Gulch, and after having been uprooted from her home and getting just what she wished for, realizes that she wants to return home. Following the yellow brick road, she seeks Oz who can show her the way back to Kansas. I read Wittgenstein’s project as eerily similar. After having left his home in the ordinary, that is, after seeking a way to speak outside of ordinary language games, that is, after his project in the Tractatus, Wittgenstein takes his task to be a return, a return of words from their metaphysical to their everyday use.
David Copp argues that the Principle of Alternate Possibilities, which states that an agent is only morally blameworthy for doing A if she could have done something other than A, can be derived from the Maxim that “ought” implies “can.” On Copp’s formulation of the Maxim, an agent is all-in morally required not to do A only if she can do something other than A. Copp supports the Maxim with an argument from fairness and an argument based on the point of moral requirements. John Martin Fischer thinks that both of these supporting arguments are flawed, and that the Maxim is false. In this paper, I examine Fischer’s rejection of the Maxim, and conclude that both of Copp’s motivations for the Maxim are sound.
Experimental philosophy studies show that ordinary people have conflicting moral intuitions: when asked about events in a deterministic universe, respondents exhibit compatibilist intuitions about vignettes describing concrete actions, but they have incompatibilist intuitions in response to more abstract queries. Nichols and Knobe maintain that concrete compatibilist intuitions should be explained as emotion-induced performance errors in the psychological process of moral judgment. Their theory is criticized in two main ways. First, they fail to establish that the role of emotion in generating compatibilist intuitions justifies the charge of performance error. Second, doubts are raised about the reliability of the psychological processes that generate incompatibilist intuitions.
In this paper I consider two kinds of approaches that philosophers have used to defend free will against psychologist Daniel Wegner’s claim that neuroscience research indicates that consciousness does not have any causal power over our actions. On the one hand, Eddy Nahmias relies heavily on empirical arguments to challenge Wegner’s conclusions. In contrast, Daniel Dennett employs a conceptual argument based on the idea that Wegner is operating under a mistaken notion of self. After ultimately rejecting the defenses of free will given by both Nahmias and Dennett, I conclude by assessing whether either of the types of approaches taken by these philosophers might eventually yield a viable defense of free will in light of the challenges posed by contemporary neuroscience.
It has been suggested that there may exist languages that contain only feature-placing sentences, and hence the conceptual scheme implied by such languages is radically different from the one with which we are more familiar. Contrary to what some philosophers believe, I argue that with such languages, we may not be able to say things having approximately the force of the things we actually say, that is, to express the so-called ordinary matters merely at the expense of simplicity. For one thing, in such languages not only can we not speak of change in something (e.g., that Theaetetus grows older), but also the sense of change in the expression of change in something cannot be preserved in the feature-placing translation.
Pascal’s famous pragmatic argument for belief in God is plagued by a number of well-known problems, not the least of which is related to the claim that significant benefits may arise when we acquire a certain set of religious beliefs. But it is reasonable to hold a wide range of conflicting beliefs about the existence of God, the nature and supposed purposes of divine reality, and other related metaphysical claims. If it is not clear what claims are true about God, then the world is religiously ambiguous. If the world is characterized by religious ambiguity, then the punishment-reward structure that underlies Pascalian wagering should be rejected in favor of what I call the agnostic wager. Given our bewildering epistemic situation in relation to questions about divine reality, if theism is true it is unlikely that it matters whether we believe theism is true.
Mars is much more than a mere planetary body in space—it is a constructed set of beliefs and ideas. We know the “red planet” today because of, not in spite of, the stories we tell about Mars. I will examine how the power of narrative has been used to convince the public that we should go to Mars. Modernity has phenomenologically shaped Mars and our present discourse of Mars is the result of that metamorphosis. The discourse of Mars is manifest in the phenomena we read, interpret, and share. This discourse also serves to legitimate the goals of those who are now talking about colonizing Mars. In this way, we create Mars discursively; and because of this, an examination of our discourse is integral to understanding the phenomenon we call “Mars.”
In this paper I analyze Waiting for Godot from the perspective of Nietzsche’s understanding of nihilism. I argue that Beckett is exploring—or showing—the opposite of the Christian parousia in the characters of the play. Indeed, in a broader sense, I attempt to show that Beckett is rejecting the Western eschatological meta-narrative as such, in socio-political as well as religious terms. The main characters of the play, Estragon and Vladimir, are thus interpreted as paradigms of inauthenticity and nihilism in Nietzsche’s precise, genealogical sense.