Richard Marshall, a writer for 3am Magazine, has been interviewing philosophers. After interviewing a long list of distinguished philosophers, including Peter Carruthers, Josh Knobe, Brian Leiter, Alex Rosenberg, Eric Schwitzgebel, Jason Stanley, Alfred Mele, Graham Priest, Kit Fine, Patricia Churchland, Eric Olson, Michael Lynch, Pete Mandik, Eddy Nahmais, J.C. Beal, Sarah Sawyer, Gila Sher, Cecile Fabre, Christine Korsgaard, among others, they seem to be scraping the bottom of the barrel, since they just published my interview. I had a great time engaging in some Existential Psychoanalysis of myself!
One thing that I have little patience with is the view that dismisses philosophy all together. The view that there is no progress in philosophy is itself a philosophical view. The view that all knowledge is scientific knowledge is also a philosophical view. When people say that philosophy is a waste of time they invariably mean one particular way of doing philosophy is a waste of time. This is clearly illustrated by people like Richard Feynman who spend a lot of time denouncing philosophy in general when a closer looks reveals that he was pissed off about the method used by particular philosophers (that he happened to encounter). This is also born out by the anti-philosophy comments at the linked posts. If you do not like thought-experiments, analysis of ordinary language, or scholastic proofs for God’s existence that is fine, but that is not the same thing as not liking philosophy.
Philosophy is unavoidable. You cannot even say why it is worthless without actually doing some philosophy; that is part and parcel of its sulkiness. I think it was Aristotle who first voiced this sentiment, (though I can’t seem to find the passage any where in my Barnes anthologies)…anyways. Deal with it.
Over at the Opinionator there is a very nice article examining the issue of whether we should eliminate meat-eating in nature if we could. Personally I think that I agree with McMahan’s conclusion that we have more reason to eliminate meat-eating in nature (if we could without great harm) than we do to preserve the various carnivorous animal species. What is striking are the two themes of the comments, or at least the first page of comments…I did not have the strength of will to go through all 11 pages of them. The first is the ludicrous idea that McMahan is somehow advocating the extinction of the Human Race. He very clearly says that humans should stop eating meat and become voluntarily non-carnivorous. The second theme in the comments is that plants have lives and when we eat them we cause them suffering so even being an herbivore is not good enough. Since this is obviously absurd it is concluded that the original claim was also absurd.
Why is this idea so prevalent among people? Our best scientific theories about the world suggest that you at least need some kind of central nervous system in order to have pain or suffering. Carrots have no central nervous system and so cannot suffer. One reason someone might object to this is allegiance to some kind of radical substance dualism. Non-physical minds can be had by anything, even carrots! But just as there is no reason to think that substance dualism is true for humans there is even less reason to think that it is true of carrots. One other line of evidence often cited is that plants react to their environment in ways we didn’t know about 1000 years ago. We have all heard about plants responding to music, “screaming” when in danger, “warning” other trees about fire, etc but isn’t it quite obvious that this is no more evidence that plants feel pain than finding out that a Roomba emits a certain frequency when it is smashed would be evidence for it feeling pain? Plants are alive and react to the environment but unless they have some kind of brain or brain-like system there is no reason to believe that they feel pain or suffer. Reaction to physical damage does not entail that there is pain much less suffering.
Now, I grant that it is conceivable that plants feel pain, and that the issue of whether it is moral to eat them hinges in large part on the answer to this question; if carrots suffered it would be prima facie wrong to eat them. I think I can also grant that we do not know with absolute certainty that plants don’t feel pain, so we cannot rule out that the actual world is in fact a world where carrots feel pain. Even so, if that were the case then McMahan’s argument would have to be put in terms of turning all species into photosynthesizes, or some other non-predatory way of producing energy and the main conclusion would still stand. So it looks like the appeal to plants is doubly off-base. In the first place it is off-base because though plant sentience is a possibility there is no serious reason to think that it is actual and secondly it is off-base because the conclusion would still follow if we amended the argument in a suitable way.
Thanks to everyone who came out to the Parkside Lounge last night! It was a weird and wonderful night! For those of you who couldn’t make it here is some video recorded by Jennifer on my iPhone set to our version of Freddie Freeloader…We’ll be back @ the Parkside April 26th and May 31st…Let me know if you are in town!
As you no doubt probably already know the results of the philpapers survey are out. These results were especially costly to me as I lost a bet on how many philosophers would self-identify as dualists. I bet Dave $100.00 that it would be less than 10% and it actually turned out to be something like 27%! One nice feature of the results is that you can sort them by rank and AOS. Turns out the only category where I got it right was among people who explicitly identify Philosophy of Cognitive Science as their AOS…coincidentally these are just the people that I usually associate with…I wonder if other people who took the meta-survey noticed that their meta-survey guesses reflected the numbers filtered for their AOS/friends in philosophy?
It looks like my wife Jennifer and I might be appearing in the new CW reality show Flygirls. I just saw the commercial on tv (available here)…it is basically as Perez Hilton points out The Hills in the sky! What part could I have in it? You will just have to wait until after the season finale of Gossip Girl and find out for yourself (the series airs in January 2010 in between Gossip Girl and ANTM cycle n+1)
Check out these amazing pictures from the Hubble telescope….woa…
It has now officially been two years since I started Philosophy Sucks! I have had 300 posts, 1,714 comments, and 75,000 hits. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by and especially those who have stayed to engage in discussion, most of which has been challenging, thought provoking, and fun!
Wait until robot teachers take all of the adjunct work!
I am pleased to announce that my paper, “The Reverse-Zombie Argument against Dualism” was accepted for presentation at the apa Pacific Division meeting in Vancouver, Canada!!! Nice.
This is the second paper of mine which is the direct result of discussion on this blog (the other being “Language, Thought, Logic, and Existence”) and which I ended up presenting at the apa, so I want to thank all of those who participated in the discussion…yes even Richard Chappell