Mark Alfano and Abrol Fairweather

Mark Alfano (left) and Abrol Fairweather (right) on virtue epistemology.

A long line of virtue ethicists believe that we need to understand the moral virtues—courage, benevolence, temperance, etc.—in order to address core questions in moral philosophy. Lately, there has been a surge of interest in virtue epistmeology, which holds that core questions in epistemology should be addressed in terms of epistemic virtues. In this conversation, Alfano and Fairweather discuss the advantages and challenges of virtue epistemology, with a special focus on issues arising from results in empirical psychology.

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Avram Hiller and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Avram Hiller (left) and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (right) on anthropogenic climate change.

Earth’s climate is changing as a result of human emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). How much of this is your fault? For instance, suppose you go on a Sunday drive in a gas-guzzling car just for fun. Then have you done any harm? Sinnott-Armstrong argues (starting at 9:43) that such an action is utterly harmless. But Hiller argues that every GHG-emitting activity—even one Sunday drive—is quantifiably harmful. After discussing their disagreement, Hiller and Sinnott-Armstrong consider a range of other philosophical issues related to climate change: the moral significance of nature (25:32); the ethics of species destruction (31:03); the influence of evolution on our moral intuitions (41:33); and the connections between global warming and global poverty (52:54).

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Elizabeth Brake and Simon May

Elizabeth Brake (left) and Simon May (right) on marriage.

As same-sex marriage gains acceptance, a greater number of caring relationships enjoy legal recognition. But what about polygamous and polyamorous relationships? What about non-romantic relationships, such as friendships? In this episode, Brake and May discuss Brake’s controversial view that individuals should be allowed to assign the rights and privileges of marriage to whomever they want, so long as the purpose is to support a caring relationship. They also discuss the case for same-sex marriage (4:30), whether legal marriage should be abolished (33:48), caring relationships as Rawlsian primary goods (45:40), and May’s objection to polygamy (54:49).

Read an excerpt from Brake’s forthcoming book, Minimizing Marriage: Morality, Marriage, and the Law.

Announcement: Jeremy Garrett, Elizabeth Brake, Martha Fineman, and Simon May will participate in a group session entitled “After Marriage” at the Eastern APA meeting, Group Session XIII, Fri., Dec. 30, 1:30pm.

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Owen Flanagan and Alex Rosenberg

Owen Flanagan (left) and Alex Rosenberg (right) on the significance of naturalism.

Naturalists believe that the world is scientifically intelligible (at least in principle). Thus, naturalists doubt the reality of anything that cannot fit into a scientific worldview. How discomforting are naturalists’ doubts? Can naturalists coherently regard life as meaningful? Rosenberg is happily pessimistic about the answers to such questions. In this conversation, Rosenberg defends his pessimism, and Flanagan resists it. They discuss whether Darwin banished purpose (17:27), why naturalists get up in the morning (34:30), and morality and politics from a naturalist perspective (49:45), among other topics.

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Jason Brennan and Kevin Vallier

Jason Brennan (left) and Kevin Vallier (right) on political liberalism and religion.

According to some prominent versions of political liberalism, coercive political force is illegitimate unless it is justifiable from every reasonable point of view. But there are many reasonable points of view from which religious beliefs cannot be justified. This seems to mean that religious political convictions are in conflict with political liberalism. However, Vallier resists that conclusion; he thinks that religious reasoning can have a legitimate role in political discourse. In this episode, Brennan and Vallier discuss Vallier’s argument.

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Matt Bedke and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Matt Bedke (left) and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (right) on ethical intuitions.

Bedke and Sinnott-Armstrong consider the extent to which we can justifiably trust our ethical intuitions. They discuss the analogy between ethical intuitions and color perceptions (2:55), a potential difference between ethical intuitions and non-ethical philosophical intuitions (19:45), Sinnott-Armstrong’s work on framing effects (27:11), and Bedke’s critique of non-naturalist ethical intuitionism (60:44), among other topics.

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Jonathan Weisberg and Kenny Easwaran

Jonathan Weisberg (left) and Kenny Easwaran (right) on full and partial belief.

An epistemic agent might be more deeply committed to some of her beliefs (e.g., that 2+2=4) than others (e.g., that Obama will be re-elected in 2012). In light of this, many philosophers want to distinguish between full and partial belief. But what precisely is that distinction? Easwaran and Weisberg discuss the issue. Along the way, they consider the lottery paradox (6:29), Easwaran’s view of the merits of an inconsistent belief set (16:17), the motivation to reduce full belief to partial belief (32:18), and the relation between action and knowledge (53:09).

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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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Alvin Goldman and Jennifer Lackey

Alvin Goldman (left) and Jennifer Lackey (right) on social epistemology.

Can a football team know more than its individual members know? How can a non-expert tell that an expert’s testimony is trustworthy? How should we modify our beliefs in response to disagreements with others? These are some of the questions encompassed by social epistemology, which deals with social aspects of knowledge and belief. In this conversation, Goldman and Lackey provide an overview of this growing subfield.

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Christopher Gauker and Kathrin Glüer

Christopher Gauker (left) and Kathrin Glüer (right) on the contents of perception.

According to one view, perceptions have propositional content: they tell us that the world is a certain way, and what they tell us can be either true or false. In this debate, Glüer defends that view against Gauker’s attack. Glüer and Gauker also consider (starting at 23:11) whether and how perceptions might justify beliefs. And Glüer interrogates Gauker (starting at 40:08) about how perceptions can be either accurate or inaccurate without having propositional content.

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