Elizabeth Barnes and Joseph Stramondo on disability.
Philosophers have traditionally argued (or simply assumed) that disability must have a net negative effect on well-being—and not just because of contingent social facts, but also in virtue of the inherent nature of disability itself. This view is markedly less prevalent outside of philosophy departments, and is not widely shared by disabled persons themselves. Stramondo and Barnes begin their conversation by discussing why philosophers’ views of disability have drifted away from the views of non-philosophers (3:19). They discuss whether philosophers suffer from a “lack of moral imagination” with respect to disability (9:10), and provide personal reflections on their own experiences with disability (19:03). Then they consider the meaning and significance of “disability pride” (35:37). Finally, they discuss a few examples of the ways in which disability can actually enhance one’s life (53:08).
Kate Padgett Walsh and Laura Papish on love and freedom in Frankfurt and Hegel.
Harry Frankfurt defends a view of love of a species of care. In this conversation, Walsh and Papish discuss Frankfurt’s view and compare it to a Hegelian alternative. They begin (1:21) with Walsh’s argument that Frankfurt’s view cannot adequately account for the intersubjective dimensions of love. Next, they discuss whether Frankfurt’s view provides a good account of unrequited love (7:46) and of relationships that involve internalized oppression (11:24). Then they turn to Hegel’s view of love (31:06) and consider whether Hegel can offer an improvement over Frankfurt’s view. Finally, they considering love in the context of the Hegelian master-slave dialectic (43:52).
Victor Kumar and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong on moral disgust.
Note: We recorded this episode on the fly at RoME in August 2014. The production quality is non-ideal (putting it mildly) but the audio is crystal clear.
How should we respond to the feeling of disgust? Is disgustingness evidence of immorality? There are some clear cases in which the disgust response is pernicious (e.g., disgust seems to underlie some racist and homophobic ideas), but this does not entail that disgust always leads us astray. In this conversation, Kumar and Sinnott-Armstrong evaluate disgust. Kumar distinguishes pathogen disgust from moral disgust (a.k.a. repugnance), and defends the utility of the latter. Sinnott-Armstrong asks whether moral disgust is really a form of disgust at all (10:03). They discuss whether disgust causes or is caused by moral judgment (20:28), and consider the epistemic credentials of disgust (23:47). Then they debate whether we should strive for emotionlessness in moral reasoning (40:15), and conclude by discussing whether the consequences of disgust are bad on the whole (46:52).
Bertha Alvarez Manninen and Jack Mulder on abortion.
Manninen defends a pro-choice view, while Mulder defends a pro-life view. In this conversation, they discuss whether the Roe v. Wade decision is philosophically defensible (2:11); Judith Thomson’s famous pro-choice argument (6:58); the right to refuse aid vs. the right to kill (13:42); the analogy between pregnancy and bone-marrow donation (18:05); whether (legal or social) restrictions on abortion involve compulsion (32:28); the limits of the right of bodily autonomy (40:57); whether the abortion debate results merely from a clash of intuitions (46:37); and implications of the pro-life view beyond abortion (55:40).
Al Mele and Eddy Nahmias on free will and science.
Mele and Nahmias start by explaining how they first became seriously interested in the relationship of free will to science. Then (12:44) they discuss the infamous Libet experiments, which are often interpreted as evidence that our conscious decisions are determined by earlier nonconscious brain activity, along with a range of other experiments in neuroscience that also bear on issues concerning human free agency. Next (25:31) they consider general worries that underlie neuroscientific investigations of free will. Then (41:28) they discuss whether (and how) results in social psychology could undermine free human agency. After that, they discuss future prospects for scientific investigation of free will (46:14), including Mele’s (exceptionally generous) Templeton-sponsored grants. They conclude (53:55) with some reflections on the definition of free will.
Sytsma and Arico begin with an overview of empirical investigations of folk intuitions about phenomenal consciousness. Then (15:03) they consider the landmark 2010 study by Sytsma and Machery, which produced evidence that the folk are largely willing to ascribe perceptual experience (“seeing red”) to a simple robot, but unwilling to ascribe bodily sensation (“feeling pain”) to the robot. (Interestingly, the same study also probed philosophers’ responses, which turned out to differ from those of the folk.) After that, they discuss (20:15) whether the Agency Model developed by Arico and colleagues can adequately account for the Sytsma and Machery results, and consider a range of other interpretations and follow-up studies. They conclude (53:58) by considering possibilities for future empirical work on folk views of phenomenal consciousness.
According to descriptivist theories of reference, when a given word refers to a given individual, it’s because the individual satisfies a description associated with the word. (For example, on this view, “Barack Obama” refers to Barack Obama because Barack Obama satisfies a certain description: he is the 44th president of the United States, etc.) By contrast, according to causal theories of reference, what makes it possible for a word to refer is that it is part of a chain of communication that leads back to the introduction of the word as a name for its referent. (For example, on this view, “Barack Obama” refers to Barack Obama just because Barack Obama was given that name by his parents.)
In this conversation, Machery and Marti debate the implications of empirical studies, conducted by Machery and others, that explore folk judgments about reference. After an overview of the main theories of reference, they discuss studies by Machery et al. on cross-cultural differences in so-called “metalinguistic judgments” (10:14). These studies, Machery argues, suggest that North Americans’ intuitions about reference are in line with a causal theory of reference, whereas East Asians’ intuitions are in line with a descriptivist theory. Marti raises doubts about the relevance of such studies for semantic theorizing (19:11), and Machery responds (27:52). Then they discuss whether Marti’s critique amounts to a call for reform in theorizing about reference (30:39), debate whether metalinguistic judgments reflect an implicit theory of proper names (36:12), and revisit their 2009 Analysis exchange (44:27).
Gregg Caruso and Neil Levy on consciousness and moral responsibility.
It seems that consciousness and moral responsibility are somehow connected. For example, intuitively, a person who is completely unconscious—e.g., a sleepwalker, or a person in a coma—cannot be responsible for what she does or fails to do. Levy has recently argued that moral responsibility for one’s actions requires consciousness of certain relevant facts; he has also argued that we can (sometimes) achieve the requisite level of consciousness, and that we are thus (sometimes) morally responsible for our actions. Caruso, by contrast, regards moral responsibility with heavier skepticism. In this conversation, after an overview of Levy’s position, Caruso and Levy discuss a range of issues: whether there could be a morally responsible zombie (16:29); somnambulism and other cases of global automatism (22:27); implicit bias (27:51); and other cases of nonconscious influence (33:58). They discuss introspection (53:09) and the “deep self” (61:06). They conclude (63:08) by discussing Levy’s views on consciousness and responsibility in the context of his other work.