Sunday, December 30, 2012

And if you're too chill about everything, you might have nonpolar disorder

Giving people bear hugs and yelling at them that they're doing everything in a way that's totally fine is a classic example of aggressive-passive behavior.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

If the Ghost of Christmas Past had let Scrooge convince his younger self to be more generous, and the ghosts hadn't bothered to visit the newly generous older Scrooge as a result, it'd be a paradox of Christmastime travel.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A volume of sausage

I believe the German term for a collection of papers written by men to honor an old famous man is "Wurstfestschrift". 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Promising Researcher

I just won a Promising Researcher award from my university, and it comes with $5000 SGD which I'll be spending on the upcoming trip. I'm not a Kantian, so I would've considered making false promises to get the money, but my department head helpfully explained to me that the award didn't work that way.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The problem of other minds is that they get there first

I was excited when I thought up this refutation of external-world skepticism: if there's no external world, there's not enough stuff to realize belief, so there's no danger of false belief. So skepticism doesn't save you from error in any world.

Wrote it up, sent it out, discovered that Daniel Greco had made the same argument way more thoroughly in the July issue of Philosophical Review, canned the paper. It's given me more of an appreciation of skepticism about other minds -- it allows you to have beliefs, and as far as you know, they're all original.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Nate Silver and philosophy: at NewApps

Since the 2012 elections, I've been compiling the predictions of major pundits and ranking them for accuracy. Catarina Dutilh Novaes asked me to post about the philosophical issues surrounding election prediction for the philosophers at NewApps. The post includes a table of 25 people's state-by-state predictions, from the successes of Markos Moulitsas and Nate Silver to the abject failures of Michael Barone, George Will, Steve Forbes, and Dick Morris. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It better be free with contract though -- I'm parsimonious

I don't imagine that I'll ever buy a cell phone because a celebrity is pitching it. But if Motorola ever markets their simplest Razr model with Occam's endorsement, they've got me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I try to keep up with the empirical stuff, but...

I've never turned down a referee request from a journal before. The request from "Science Journal Publication" to referee "Influence of Warp Yarn Tension On Cotton Woven Fabric Structures" will, thus, be the first.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy Nousday!

October 15 is the day Nous and (I think) PPR start accepting papers again. I just sent a paper to Nous that I'd been waiting to submit for over a month.  I propose "Nousday" as a name for this occasion.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

10 obols (pbk), ISBN 000000000001

On the right-hand side of the NDPR "Recent Reviews" page, there are images of the oldest known manuscript of the Republic, Augustine's Confessions, Descartes' Meditations, and Hegel's Phenomenology. I clicked to see if they had posted reviews by Glaucon or Princess Elisabeth or Schopenhauer or someone, but apparently the images are just there for decoration. I should've known; NDPR gets reviews up a lot quicker than that.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Planning world tour 2013

I'm on research leave in the first half of 2013, thanks to my department head's generosity in letting me teach extra classes in some semesters in exchange for time off in others.  The plan is to go on another huge talk tour like I did back in 2011, when I ended up giving 51 talks.  I got awesome feedback on papers, met lots of interesting philosophers, and in general had a great time.  So I'm eager to do it again!

The big project will be defending desire-belief accounts of motivation and the phenomenology of deliberation.  That's the side of my work that's gotten the best reception (the Nous and Phil Review papers are on that).  It may be time to turn it into a book, laying out the view, dealing with all the proposed counterexamples to the view one after the other, and drawing out the consequences for moral theory.  I'll also be doing some moral epistemology, and a maybe a Nietzsche paper or two.

The basic plan is to be in the warmer part the US from January through March, and take off from the Northeast to the UK sometime in April.  Then in late May I'll go to Australia and stick around for the AAP.  If you're up for having me make a stop at your department, send me an email!  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ben Blumson's "Metamicrofiction" appears in Microliterature

Congratulations to my colleague, who has published a zero-word story.  I posted an equally short comment at the site.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

"The Desire-Belief Account of Intention Explains Everything" appears in Noûs Early View

You can get the paper here at the Noûs site, or download the nearly final version from my PhilPapers account.

As the title suggests, it's a defense of desire-belief accounts of intention. Opponents of my view like Kieran Setiya and Michael Bratman claim that such accounts can't explain our knowledge of our intentional actions, the way we can sometimes decide which among several reasons to act on, and the role of intentions in deliberation. I respond that desire-belief accounts can explain the presence and absence of these phenomena even better than their own accounts can. The strategy is to use features of ordinary desire, like the way that our desires direct our attention at things we associate with their objects, to explain why we typically have immediate knowledge of our own intentional actions and why intentions have the degree of stability that they do. You don't need to invoke irreducible intentions or motivationally potent beliefs to explain motivational and deliberative phenomena. Simple explanations that leave out these mental states and do all the work with desire fit the data just fine.

People have said nice things about the writing, and I'm very proud of that.  Here's one of the examples in the paper, which is about the limits of our ability to choose which of our reasons we act on.  The point is that even if you take something as a reason for action and have perfect self-knowledge and want it to be your sole reason for action, you might fail to make it your sole reason for action:
Jane has received a marriage proposal from the King. She is poor, and she knows his wealth gives her a good reason to marry him. She also knows he is very kind, and she takes that as a good reason to marry him too. But he is old and grey, and had he been a commoner, she would’ve politely turned him down. She knows this, and sighs as she thinks about it. For it means a lot to her that her reason for marrying be something about her husband himself, and not his money. Something like his kindness! What a wonderful girl she would be if she could marry him for that reason! She wishes she could find a witch to cast a spell on her increasing her love for kind men, so she could marry him for his kindness, but all the witches were burned long ago.
The desire-belief view explains the limits on our power to choose which of our reasons we can act on.  Even though she accepts that it is a reason, Jane can't make the king's kindness her sole reason for marrying because her desire to marry a kind man isn't strong enough. The only way to make it her sole reason would be to (magically?) increase the strength of that desire.

Anyway, if you thought that was kind of nifty, feel free to read the rest of the paper!  It's fun stuff.  I'm thinking that after this and the paper defending the Humean theory of motivation in Phil Review, it's time for me to write a book taking on all the objections to Humean explanations of motivational phenomena.  If you've got a favorite objection, let me know!

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's harder to come up with a good canola joke

Traveling through the Czech Republic for a conference two months ago, I saw many fields full of yellow flowers. I asked if it was mustard, and the organizer told me it was rape -- the plant from which one makes rapeseed oil. (Canola oil is a more happily-named variety.) He recounted a conversation with some Americans years ago when he spoke worse English. They were discussing social problems like rape and he brightly said, "Yes, rape! It is all over my country!"

I guess that's a "rape" joke rather than a rape joke, but anyway, Daniel Tosh was doing it wrong.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Distinguishing Belief And Imagination accepted in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly!  Here's the abstract:

Some philosophers (including Urmson, Humberstone, Shah, and Velleman) hold that believing that p distinctively involves applying a norm according to which the truth of p is a criterion for the success or correctness of the attitude. On this view, imagining and assuming differ from believing in that no such norm is applied. I present counterexamples both to the sufficiency and the necessity of applying a norm of truth for distinguishing between believing on one hand and imagining and assuming on the other. Then I argue that the different functional properties of these states are enough to distinguish them.

It's available on PhilPapers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Unequal Vividness and Double Effect

It's forthcoming in Utilitas, and downloadable at PhilPapers.  Here's the abstract:

I argue that the Doctrine of Double Effect is accepted because of unreliable processes of belief-formation, making it unacceptably likely to be mistaken. We accept the doctrine because we more vividly imagine intended consequences of our actions than merely foreseen ones, making our aversions to the intended harms more violent, and making us judge that producing the intended harms is morally worse. This explanation fits psychological evidence from Schnall and others, and recent neuroscientific research from Greene, Klein, Kahane, and Schaich Borg. It explains Mikhail and Hauser’s “universal moral grammar” and an interesting phenomenon about Double Effect cases noted by Bennett. When unequally vivid representations determine our decisions, we typically misjudge the merits of our options and make mistakes. So if Double Effect is a product of unequal vividness, it is likely to be mistaken. This argument, I claim, fits Berker’s specifications for good empirically grounded arguments in ethics.

Monday, June 11, 2012

It was loaded with Frankfurt cases

I was excited when the example in a recent x-phi paper began, "A trolley problem is hurtling down the tracks..."

I was kind of hoping that Judith Jarvis Thomson had unleashed it and Peter Singer would switch the track so it'd run over 1 deontological theory rather than 5 consequentialist theories. Unfortunately, the example turned out to be an ordinary trolley problem rather than a trolley problem problem.

Monday, March 19, 2012

You'd get a different answer if you went to Church

Can dialetheism help with puzzles involving the Trinity and transubstantiation? If the Pope says "This sentence is false" ex cathedra, what should committed Catholics think of its truth-value? These are questions I'd like to ask a Priest.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Now on PhilPapers

I'm now hosting all my papers and stuff on PhilPapers, since Google Sites has been making my recently uploaded PDFs come up weird.

Also, my defense of the desire-belief view of intention was accepted by Nous! I want to write a big post on this soon, but I keep getting distracted by stuff. But it's coming and it'll be good.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

21st Century Monads: Achiever!

I'm on the cover of the Monads' latest single! [Update] Here's their page and the song!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The second person

I have a tendency to interpret "you" in song lyrics as referring to myself. This can be unpleasant when I listen to punk rock and wonder why the singer is so mad at me, but it's fun when I listen to religious music and am told that I redeemed the world.

Monday, January 09, 2012

The ends of introductions

Academic book introductions typically end by thanking the author's devoted and caring spouse. Just once I want to see "And finally, I'd like to thank Jack, Rusty, Susan, and Brett, the three boyfriends and one girlfriend I had and lost during the writing of this book. Though I didn't spend enough time with them because I was working too hard, their senses of humor, good cooking (except Rusty), and skill in bed (mmmm, Susan) won't be forgotten."