Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Your intention is _____

When p is the case and you believe that p, we say that your belief is true. When p is the case and you desire that p, we say that your desire is satisfied. When p is the case and you intend that p, what do we say about your intention?

"Your intention is true" sounds bad. "Your intention is satisfied" sounds a lot better, though I think I'd say "Your intention is achieved."

I don't know how much weight this should have in getting us to prefer accounts on which intentions are desires to accounts on which intentions are beliefs. But it seems to me that it has a little bit of weight.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Supervenience, Australian and American

Do Australians and Americans tend to use the term "supervenience" in different ways? The way I've heard Aussies (and honorary Aussie David Lewis) use the term fits the characterization in the Stanford Encyclopedia: "there cannot be an A-difference without a B-difference". But I've heard some Americans use the term to mean something that adds a conjunct to make supervenience something much stronger: "there cannot be an A-difference without a B-difference, and A's aren't reducible to B's." Were these Americans just being weird?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Back from India

It was good! If you haven't been to rural India and are curious, I have a big post here with lots of photos and it might interest you.

Friday, February 12, 2010

In India

I'm flying out to India tomorrow. Most of next week is going to be spent in rural West Bengal, where there will be many cows but probably no internet. I'll be back around February 21st or so.

We're not really sure where Mom's village, Bikrampur, is on Google Maps. But our guess is that it's somewhere here. Dad's village, Kadakuli, is about two miles northwest. If you happen to be in town, come by and say hi!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Not the best way to criticize Kant

I like my Kant-bashing as much as the next utilitarian who defends the Humean theory of motivation and works on Nietzsche. But this really isn't the best line of attack:

In his latest title, Lévy launches a scathing attack on the 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, calling him “raving mad” and a “fake”.

The book, De la guerre en philosophie (On War in Philosophy) , has been greeted with the customary rapture, and its ubiquitous author has been a fixture on television and in the press all week.

In framing his case, Lévy – BHL to the Parisian cognoscenti – drew on the writings of the little-known 20th century thinker Jean-Baptiste Botul – author of The Sex Life of Immanuel Kant , and a man Lévy has cited in lectures.

The problem? Botul never existed. He was invented by a journalist from the satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné 10 years ago as an elaborate joke. And since the hoax was revealed, BHL has become a laughing stock.

“As it turns out, it was a hoax,” admitted the author in a blog post after the blunder was spotted by a journalist from Le Nouvel Observateur .

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Claire Danes on Jonathan Dancy's leather pants on Craig Ferguson

Claire Danes spent several minutes discussing her father-in-law, Jonathan Dancy (of particularism fame), on Craig Ferguson's show!

Dancy was on my dissertation committee. He read my dissertation and let me know that it was done. That was very helpful, especially coming from an opponent of my view.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Korsgaard, Yawgmoth, and personal identity

In “Personal Identity and the Unity of Agency: A Kantian Response to Parfit,” Christine Korsgaard writes:
It is, I think, significant that writers on personal identity often tell stories about mad surgeons who make changes in our memories or characters. These writers usually emphasize the fact that after the surgical intervention we are altered, we have changed. But surely part of what creates the sense of lost identity is that the person is changed by intervention, from outside. The stories might affect us differently if we imagined the changes initiated by the person herself, as a result of her own choice. You are not a different person just because you are very different. Authorial psychological connectedness is consistent with drastic changes, provided those changes are the result of actions by the person herself or reactions for which she is responsible.
She then states the broader thesis that these reflections serve: “the sort of continuity needed for what matters to me in my own personal identity essentially involves my agency” (123).

However, drastic changes that are fully intended consequences of one's own agency can similarly disrupt one's personal identity. Consider the following story:
Yawgmoth was the cruelest of demons, and he liked tormenting the damned. But his greatest wish was to leave Hell and wreak horrible misery upon the happy people living above. He knew why no demon had ever done such a thing – the gates of Hell were enchanted so that only a creature of pure benevolence could exit. So he learned how to make a potion that would wipe all the malevolence from his mind and replace it with benevolence just for one minute, allowing him to leave and then become cruel again. He poured it into a goblet, strode to the gates, and drank.

But what happened then? Having become a creature of pure benevolence, he recoiled at the horrors that the living would endure if the cruelest demon of Hell was among them. Instead of passing through the gates, he ran back into Hell. And wishing to spare even the damned from the torments of a furious and frustrated Yawgmoth, he bravely pulled a cleaver from the hands of another demon, struck off his own head, and perished.
Intuitively, Yawgmoth becomes a different person after drinking the potion, no less than Dr. Jekyll or any victim of a mad surgeon. That he intends this change and is responsible for it does not make him the same person before and after.

This is not to reject Korsgaard's broader thesis that personal identity has some interesting esential relation to agency. Nor is it to say that intentionally causing the changes in oneself is wholly irrelevant to personal identity – just that it is one among many more or less significant sorts of psychological connectedness.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

What are they doing to KCL Philosophy?

I presented my defense of universal hedonism at King's College London during June of last year. Question and answer period there was one of the most lively, stimulating, and productive sessions I've ever had. A couple of the faculty came out for coffee afterwards, and my only wish was that I could've talked with them longer.

That's part of why it's astonishing to hear about the people losing their jobs there. You don't usually hear about this kind of thing happening at top departments. Shalom Lappin and Charles Travis, in particular, are big people who have continued to be very productive researchers.

Update: Here's a letter and petition for friends of KCL to sign.