Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It'd make quite a conference nametag too

As the APA begins, I remember how I felt going on the market 4 years ago. What if I didn't get a philosophy job and had to work in fast food, but my R&R went through and the Philosophical Review asked for my institutional affiliation? Would I list it as "Burger King"? Thanks to NUS, it didn't come to that.

51 talks, 6 months

It's been an amazing six months. Thanks to the generosity of the National University of Singapore and a bunch of wonderful people at philosophy departments around the world, I've given 51 talks in six months -- 42 in the USA this semester, and 9 in Australasia during the middle of the year. (That includes workshops on my papers, an invited guest lecture for a class, and a mystery event that turned out to be a 3-hour Q&A on my defense of utilitarianism.) I'm home with the family in San Francisco right now, polishing up the papers and sending them off. I'm also trying to get lots of exercise so that my pants will fit properly again after all the delicious dinners people fed me.

I was really impressed with how welcoming people were. My advice to any junior faculty person who would like to give a talk and has their own funding is to go ahead and ask! Especially at smaller departments that don't have that active a colloquium schedule, since they'll be very appreciative and up for hanging out with their visitor. I had great conversations with philosophers at places I didn't know much about before like the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, DePauw, IUPUI, Salem State, and the University of Portland. I had a good time talking with the philosophers at Boise State, who asked me to give a public lecture on Nietzsche (50+ people came!) as well as a research talk.

Oh, and the best accommodations I had were at FSU, where they put me up in a former university president's apartment that you could get to by putting a key in a campus elevator to make it go to a secret floor. Sometimes you feel like a rock star.

I mostly did the colder parts of the country in early fall and the warmer parts of the country when winter struck. Not only did this give me better weather, it let me use one set of clothes in all climates. The smaller amount of clothing meant I could fly carry-on, which helped with scheduling because I could get out of the airport faster. The big hassle was all the logistics -- having to figure out lots of intercity transit stuff to figure out where I could go before I could even ask departments whether they wanted me to come by got pretty tricky. But everything got figured out and I didn't miss a talk (thanks in part to nice people at Wayne State and Alabama who accommodated my train delays).

Writing on the road went really well. I'm a lot better at getting stuff done the morning of the talk on an airplane wedged between two chubby businessmen than I am with no deadlines ahead of me in my office. The office makes me procrastinate; having to give a talk in a few hours makes me write. Of the 10 papers I presented on this tour, 7 are under review now (3 are R&Rs which are now back to the journals) and I should be able to finish up 2 of the remaining 3 by March. I'll be setting up a proper website to house my draft papers in the next week or two.

It looks like I'll be on the road again from late April to July when this semester ends, as well as in the spring semester of 2013. My department head is great and we've worked out a deal where I do some extra teaching in exchange for my taking spring 2013 off. I was mostly in the Midwest and East Coast this time, so I should try to visit California and the Southwest when it's colder, or Canada when it's warmer. If you'd like to have me come by, send me an email!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

"The Humean Theory of Practical Irrationality" accepted by JESP

I'm proud to say that "The Humean Theory of Practical Irrationality" has been accepted by the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy. Here's an abstract:
Christine Korsgaard has argued that Humean views about action and practical rationality jointly imply the impossibility of irrational action. According to the Humean theory of action, agents do what maximizes expected desire-satisfaction. According to the Humean theory of rationality, it is rational for agents to do what maximizes expected desire-satisfaction. Thus Humeans are committed to the impossibility of practical irrationality – an unacceptable consequence.

I respond by developing Humean views to explain how we can act irrationally. Humeans about action should consider the immediate motivational forces produced by an agent's desires. Humeans about rationality should consider the agent's dispositional desire strengths. When (for example) vivid sensory or imaginative experiences of desired things cause some of our desires to produce motivational force disproportional to their dispositional strength, we may act in ways that do not maximize expected desire- satisfaction, thus acting irrationally. I argue that this way of developing Humean views is true to the best reasons for holding them.
I submitted to JESP before the other ethics journals in its class -- the Journal of Value Inquiry, the Journal of Ethics, the Journal of Moral Philosophy, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice -- because it's open source.

Just sent off another R&R today, and I hope I have another happy post like this to write soon...

[Update] And it's up! Online journals are fast. Time between acceptance and publication was under a month.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

They cost 10 coins

I'd like to carry my laptop in something that would give people justified true beliefs that a laptop was in there, but keep them from knowing. It'd be a Gettier case.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Platonic love

In a Platonic relationship, you treat your partner like an abstract object.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Grueling pace and generous rations

I took a long walk to the University of Portland for my talk yesterday, and near the end I came upon the Willamette River Valley. I was happy that I didn't die of dysentery on the way, and I knew that if I'd shot a bison I couldn't have carried more than 100 lbs of it back with me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I go everywhere and give talks

Thanks to the generosity of the National University of Singapore, I've got a semester of leave with which to travel the USA giving talks and a nice travel grant to pay for it. So I'm going to travel the country giving talks and meet all the philosophers I can!

Here's the schedule at present -- I'll update it as necessary. More invitations are definitely welcome, especially if I'm passing through your part of the country.

Aug 26 Boise State Public Lecture - Zarathustra's Metaethics
Aug 27 Boise State - The Gap Between Thought and Ought
Aug 29 Tennessee - Ethical Reductionism
Sep 2 Georgetown - The Desire-Belief Account of Intending Explains Everything
Sep 6 Michigan Ethics Discussion Group - The Epistemic Argument for Hedonism
Sep 8 Wayne State - The Desire-Belief Account of Intending Explains Everything
Sep 9 Michigan State - Unequal Vividness and Double Effect
Sep 12 Northern Illinois - Emotional Perception of Morality
Sep 13 Illinois at Chicago - Unequal Vividness and Double Effect
Sep 15 University of Portland - Zarathustra's Metaethics
Sep 20 Puget Sound - Ethical Reductionism
Sep 22 WUSTL - The Epistemic Argument for Hedonism
Sep 23 UMSL - The Desire-Belief Account of Intending Explains Everything
Sep 26 Illinois State - The Gap Between Thought and Ought
Sep 28 IUPUI - God, Fine-Tuning, and Psychophysical Laws
Sep 29 DePauw - Zarathustra's Metaethics
Sep 30 Cincinnati - Ethical Reductionism
Oct 3 Princeton Normative Workshop - The Desire-Belief Account of Intending Explains Everything
Oct 4 Rutgers guest lecture for Andy Egan's philosophy of food class
Oct 5 Maryland - The Desire-Belief Account of Intending Explains Everything
Oct 7 Syracuse - Fine-Tuning and Psychophysical Laws
Oct 11 Yale Moral Philosophy Group - The Epistemic Argument for Hedonism
Oct 14 Tufts - Emotional Perception of Morality
Oct 17 Salem State - Belief and Imagination: Against the Norm Theory
Oct 21 Delaware - The Desire-Belief Account of Intending Explains Everything
Oct 23 UNC Metaethics Group - Ethical Reductionism
Oct 28 Florida State - The Desire-Belief Account of Intending Explains Everything
Oct 31 Florida - Ethical Reductionism
Nov 4 South Florida - Zarathustra's Metaethics
Nov 8 Miami - Zarathustra's Metaethics
Nov 9 UAB - God, Fine-Tuning and Psychophysical Laws
Nov 10 Alabama - The Epistemic Argument for Hedonism
Nov 14 Houston - Ethical Reductionism
Nov 15 Arkansas at Little Rock - The Epistemic Argument for Hedonism
Nov 16 University of Central Arkansas - The Epistemic Argument for Hedonism
Nov 17 SMU - Ethical Reductionism
Nov 18 Texas - Ethical Reductionism
Nov 28 Kansas State - Emotional Perception of Morality
Dec 1 Kansas - Zarathustra's Metaethics
Dec 2 Oklahoma - Desire, Action, and Pleasure
Dec 4 UMKC Philosophy Squares
Dec 9 Bowling Green - The Epistemic Argument for Hedonism

Total: 42

R&Rs R us

Just got my 3rd revise and resubmit of the year! That makes it R&R&R&R&R&R, I guess.

I still need to send back the first one, but it had 9 pages of very good comments and I realized I had to rewrite a lot of the paper. The second and third ones don't require quite as much revision. It's left me feeling a bit like Buridan's ass about which one to work on, but it's time to just go on ahead and gobble up one of the three bales of hay.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Philosophy Down Under

As you can see, I'm having an awesome time doing philosophy Down Under.

Okay, the picture at right depicts me dancing at a karaoke bar, but in my defense there are no less than three leading lights of the discipline (Daniel Nolan, a delighted Amie Thomasson, and Alan Hajek) behind me. This was a few weeks ago at the Australasian Association of Philosophy conference in Dunedin NZ.

After two great conferences in Auckland, I came down to Tasmania last week. Tomorrow I go up to Melbourne for two talks, and then to Brisbane. Then I return to Singapore, and before long the big lecture tour in the States will begin.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Berlin review of Pippin's Nietzsche

Anyone who took interest in my NDPR review of Robert Pippin's Nietzsche, Psychology, and First Philosophy back in September might be interested in another review by Kristóf Fenyvesi at the Berlin Review of Books. Fenyvesi is better acquainted with Pippin's recent work than I am. I agree with many points he makes about the place of psychology in the Nietzsche secondary literature, especially as applied to Pippin's book.

Philosophy of race

I wonder how many NASCAR fans have gotten interested in Critical Race Theory, only to discover that it wasn't what they expected.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Best call for papers ever

Just got this email from the A-phil list:
Call for papers:
The History and Philosophy of Astrobiology

A conference on the history and philosophy of astrobiology will be held on Tycho Brahe’s island Ven, Sweden, September 27–28, 2011. The conference is arranged by the astrobiology research theme ”Astrobiology: Past, Present, and Future” at the Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies, Lund University. Registration and submission of abstracts is open until July 15th, 2011.

The two-day symposium will explore:
• The history of astrobiology from antiquity to the present, concerning its theories, methods, instrumentation, organization, and its interaction with society and popular culture.
• The philosophy of astrobiology, including for instance ethics, epistemology, theory of science, political philosophy, philosophy of religion, and cognitive science.
A conference on astrobiology. On an island. In (southern) Sweden (in the early fall). And did we mention that Tycho Brahe built observatories on the island? Whose awesome idea was this?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

If this is your favorite philosophy blog, you have goofy taste in philosophy blogs

I'm flattered and slightly embarrassed to be included in a 'Favorite Philosophy Blogs' poll. It's against the rules to link, so I won't. While I appreciate votes for me, it's pretty obvious that lots of other blogs have content superior to my silly puns.

Probably the best thing I've put up this year is a puzzle about butts based on Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back."

Monday, June 06, 2011

Modal logic thought of the day

Boxes are made of would.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Australasian Talk Schedule

About a month from now, I'll be starting my travels around the world, presenting papers and having all kinds of fun with philosophers. Here's the itinerary for the Australasian phase. I'll fill it out further once I get in contact with various departments about which paper they'd like to hear:

June 27-28, Global Themes in Ethical Naturalism, Singapore - "Emotional Perception of Morality"
July 3-8, Australasian Association of Philosophy, Dunedin - "Ethical Reductionism"
July 12, Canterbury (Christchurch NZ) - "The Epistemic Argument For Hedonism"
July 14-15, Naturalisms in Ethics, Auckland - "Emotional Perception of Morality"
July 16-17, Australasian Philosophy of Religion Association, Auckland - "Fine-tuning & Psychophysical Laws"
July 20, University of Tasmania - "Zarathustra's Metaethics"
July 27, La Trobe (Melbourne) - "Zarathustra's Metaethics"
July 28, University of Melbourne - "The Epistemic Argument For Hedonism"
July 29, University of Queensland - "Zarathustra's Metaethics"

Then I'll be back to Singapore for a few days, and then off to America for the fall semester of 2011 to have more awesome months like this.

NUS has very kindly given me a semester of writing leave and a travel grant, and I'm eager to make the most of them. I'm scheduling the US part of my trip right now. If you'd like to have me come visit you, I'm ready to travel, so let me know!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It wouldn't work for his "heat is the motion of molecules" example though

If Kripke wanted to refer either to the wooden lectern or to a lectern made of ice in its place, he could've used frigid designation.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Let's just call his subfield "R"

It would've been unfortunate if Derek Parfit had been denied tenure on grounds that his research was not on a significant topic, because personal identity is not what matters.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Possible curls

If my counterparts all had dull, dried-out hair, I would use a counterfactual conditioner.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bad naturalist! No biscuit.

I've discovered the best reason to think that emotions are necessarily electrochemical signals in the brain! It's the linguistic evidence: email is electronic mail, so emotions must be electronic motions!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pantheism gives rise to similar issues

If you're trying to fry things by rationally persuading your cookware to heat up, you might be a panpsychist.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jessica Berry's letter to the UNLV Board of Regents

UNLV is planning to respond to the fiscal situation in Nevada by simply eliminating the philosophy department and the women's studies department. Anything I wrote about this would be less eloquent than what Jessica Berry wrote, so let me put her letter up:
To the Members of the Board of Regents,

Shortly after being sentenced to death by a jury of his fellow citizens, Socrates observes: "It is for the sake of a short time, gentlemen of the jury, that you will acquire the reputation and the guilt, in the eyes of those who want to denigrate the city, of having killed Socrates, a wise man, for they who want to revile you will say that I am wise even if I am not." You have no doubt heard many defenses recently of the "cash value" of Philosophy as an academic research discipline, and of the claim that Philosophy is the core of the humanities, and of the many ways in which students who are able to study Philosophy as undergraduates are more "well-rounded" and demonstrably more competitive than students in many other disciplines, across and outside of the humanities. All of these things are true and well worth bearing in mind as you confront your state's current fiscal crisis. But consider also Socrates' suggestion: even if none of these things were the case, the reputation of your state, your city, and your university system is likely to suffer just the same. In a state that allows women legally to practice "the oldest profession," you will become known for having killed off a Women's Studies program during International Women's Month, and for having at the same time having focused your efforts solely on ousting your practitioners of the oldest academic profession there is.

Because those who devote their lives to the academy as a career are among the most highly-trained professionals in our country, people whose expertise is not so easily transferred to other places or fields, your administration will become known for having ruined the lives of many faculty members when doing so could certainly have been avoided. The University of Nevada will find it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain excellent faculty members, in any discipline, or to recruit students from out of state. The loss of these programs will outrage alumni, whether or not they studied Philosophy as a major or minor, thereby alienating a number of would-be future contributors to the university. Finally, and most obviously, the intellectual reputation of the university-nationally and internationally-will suffer. What may appear to you to be the loss of one department will have substantial, long-term repercussions for the entire University of Nevada.

When the University System of Georgia faced a proposed second year of $3M cuts, even Republican Governor Sonny Perdue called a halt, saying that he would not allow the Legislature to dismantle a world-class university system that it took generations to build. I can say without exaggeration that I believe the proposal currently under consideration by the Board would clearly have that effect on your institution. I would urge you to look to the solutions adopted by other university systems around the country who have weathered times just as trying as those in Nevada, but without such far-reaching and catastrophic consequences.

Dr. Jessica N. Berry,
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Georgia State University

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

This joke will be my greatest contribution to early modern scholarship

If Hume were right about the missing shade of blue, it would be a pigment of our imagination.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Looking forward to the 2011 AAP

I just bought my ticket from Singapore to Christchurch for the 2011 AAP in New Zealand. The conference will be in Dunedin, at the University of Otago, from July 3-8. I've had a lot of fun with Aussie and Kiwi philosophers at past AAPs, and this year they're rolling both the Australian and the New Zealand conference into one. After that I'll make my way up to Auckland for the Naturalisms in Ethics Conference July 14-15. I'll probably be Down Under for another couple weeks after that to have a good time with more philosophers.

Jetstar was having some kind of fare sale, so I got a pretty good deal on this flight. The one-way ticket cost SGD 315 (USD 246), which is good for a journey of over 5000 miles. I'm good at sleeping on planes overnight, especially if I gulp down some melatonin, so if you meet me in Christchurch I should be awake and alert. And since New Zealand's duty free allowance is 3 liters of hard liquor, I should have some good stuff to share.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I need a friend with a video camera

Someday I'll go up to Jerry Fodor and say, "Gubap-boop meelip junga whinky-whinky." And he'll say, "What?" And I'll say, "Oh! Sorry. I thought you knew the Language of Thought."

Saturday, February 05, 2011

A puzzle about your butt

Nineteen years ago yesterday, Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" was released. In commemoration of this significant cultural event, I've put together a little puzzle.
You are curious whether your butt is big or small. Unfortunately, you lack the ability to accurately assess the size of butts. Fortunately, there are three rappers before you. You are of their preferred gender, so they are willing to collectively entertain exactly one yes-or-no question from you, to which they will each give an answer.

One rapper likes big butts and cannot lie. One rapper likes small butts and always lies. One rapper likes all butts but shares your inability to assess butt size, and will answer yes or no at random if asked whether a butt is big or small. You do not know which rapper is which. All the rappers know all other facts relevant to the situation, including everyone's identity and butt preferences.

Before you are able to ask your question, one rapper receives a booty call (the size of the booty is unknown to you) and leaves the room. The other two rappers remain and are willing to pronounce on your question. You still do not know who any of the rappers are.

To determine the size of your butt, what question should you ask them? (You may assume that all butts can be classified as either big or small and ignore contextual factors, e.g. from the presence of Oakland booty.)
Perhaps you will enjoy hearing "Baby Got Back" while working on this puzzle.

Thanks are due to Daniel Velleman for inspiring the puzzle, Rob Helpy-Chalk for pointing out an inconsistency since corrected, and Dennis Clark and Supriya Sinhababu for playtesting.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Naturalisms in Ethics in Auckland

Here's where I'll be in the middle of July 2011: Auckland NZ, for the Naturalisms in Ethics conference. People of very different views (including some theists) will be there. In fact, since it precedes a philosophy of religion conference, they might be a majority. It should be exciting!