Author Archives: john

Graham Hubbs and Michael O’Rourke

Graham Hubbs (left) and Michael O’Rourke (right) on philosophical intervention.

The Toolbox Project, helmed by O’Rourke, applies philosophy to problems of cross-disciplinary cooperation among scientists. In this interview, Hubbs and O’Rourke discuss the goals and methods of the project, the stigma of applied philosophy, and the extent to which deep philosophical issues (e.g. in philosophy of language) are relevant in other disciplines.

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Filed under Epistemology, Pedagogy, Philosophy of Language, The Profession

Simon Keller and Sarah Stroud

Simon Keller (left) and Sarah Stroud (right) on partiality.

Keller and Stroud (starting at 13:40) discuss their controversial view that good friendship requires the violation of epistemic norms. Then (at 21:03) they discuss Stroud’s work on plural agency and partiality. Next (at 34:40) Keller explains why he rejects the widely held view that our reasons to put loved ones before strangers should be understood in terms of personal projects or relationships. Finally (at 58:26) they discuss the analogy between partiality to people and partiality to countries.

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Filed under Normative ethics, Value Theory

Maureen Eckert and Graham Priest

Maureen Eckert (left) and Graham Priest (right) on deviant logic.

According to classical systems of logic, anything follows from a contradiction: the relation of logical consequence is explosive. But recent decades have seen growing interest in “deviant,” paraconsistent systems that include non-explosive relations of logical consequence. Further, some deviant logicians, such as Priest, assert the existence of dialetheias (true contradictions). In this conversation, Eckert and Priest discuss whether and how deviant logic should be studied in the undergraduate classroom. Then (starting at 29:40) they look for dialetheias in the areas of emotions, legal norms, and contradictory fictions.

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Filed under Logic, Pedagogy

Michael Boylan and Charles Johnson

Michael Boylan (left) and Charles Johnson (right) on philosophy and literature.

Although philosophy has been presented in narrative form since Plato, today it is often regarded as being closer to science than literature. Should philosophers do more to cultivate their literary heritage? In this conversation, Boylan and Johnson examine the tradition of narrative philosophy and consider ways in which storytelling can enrich philosophical discourse.

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Filed under Aesthetics, The Profession

Barry Loewer and Tim O’Connor

Barry Loewer (left) and Tim O’Connor (right) on emergence, quantum mechanics, and consciousness.

O’Connor defends, and Loewer opposes, strong emergentism: the view that there are properties and laws beyond those which can be captured by any fundamental physical theory. After clarifying their positions, they discuss (starting at 30:01) whether quantum mechanics supports or undermines O’Connor’s view. Then (starting at 43:27) they turn to phenomena of consciousness, and consider whether the immediacy and simplicity of conscious experience provide evidence of strong emergence.

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Filed under Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind

Elizabeth Anderson and David Schmidtz

Elizabeth Anderson (left) and David Schmidtz (right) on equality.

Anderson and Schmidtz begin with a critical assessment of Amartya Sen’s influential view that every theory of justice must strive for equality of something. Then they discuss Anderson’s form of egalitarianism, which privileges social relations over mere distributive equality (although it also allows that distributive components of justice are important). Finally, they consider various problems facing our own society. What sorts of inequality exist in our democracy, and what sorts of inequality should we aim to eliminate?

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Filed under Applied Ethics, Political Philosophy, Value Theory

Tony Coady and Stephen Nathanson

Tony Coady (left) and Stephen Nathanson (right) on terrorism.

What is terrorism? Do all terrorist acts aim to terrify? Is it possible for terrorism to be morally justifiable? Can state actions (such as the controversial Allied bombings of World War II) count as terrorist acts? Coady and Nathanson consider such questions in the course of attempting to define “terrorism.” Then (starting at 31:11) they discuss the doctrine of double effect, which Nathanson attacks and Coady defends. Finally (starting at 42:29) they critically examine Michael Walzer’s view that non-combatants may be targeted in conditions of supreme emergency.

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Filed under Applied Ethics, Value Theory

Tamar Gendler and Stephen Stich

Tamar Gendler (left) and Stephen Stich (right) on gender and philosophical intuition.

Empirical evidence collected by Stich and Buckwalter suggests that “standard” intuitions about philosophical thought experiments (e.g. Gettier cases) are more common among men than women. Stich and Gendler examine the merits of this evidence. They consider what might explain gendered differences in intuitions, and whether such differences can help to explain why women are underrepresented in professional philosophy. They also discuss alternative explanations for the gender gap, including the effects of sexism and the shortage of female professors and graduate students to serve as role models for female undergraduates. Finally, they ask why a gender gap has been a larger problem in philosophy than other fields.

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Filed under Methodology, The Profession, x-phi

Adam Elga, Joshua Schechter, and Roger White

Adam Elga (left), Joshua Schechter (middle), and Roger White (right) on the problem of contingency.

Your beliefs about matters such as politics, religion, and morality are contingent on epistemically irrelevant factors like the time and place of your birth. Does this worry you? Should it? Elga maintains that this sort of contingency of our beliefs should not by itself undermine our confidence in them. Schechter and White challenge that position.

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Filed under Epistemology

Michael Boylan and Rosemarie Tong

Michael Boylan (left) and Rosemarie Tong (right) on reproductive rights and artificial reproduction.

Boylan and Tong begin by discussing Mary Beth Whitehead, a surrogate mother who decided, after her baby was born, not to uphold her agreement to give the child to adoptive parents. As Boylan and Tong show, this case raises difficult questions about whether surrogate mothers are in a position to give informed consent, whether commercial surrogacy commodifies children or unjustly oppresses women, and the role that biological relatedness plays in determining reproductive rights, among other issues.

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Filed under Applied Ethics, Reproductive Rights, Value Theory