Musings on Gettier and the definition of knowledge

Scientia Salon

knowledge3by Coel Hellier

Philosophers have traditionally defined knowledge as a belief that is both true and justified, a definition that sufficed until, 50 years ago, Edmund Gettier pointed out that the conditions could be fulfilled by accident, in ways that didn’t amount to what we would intuitively regard as knowledge.

Gettier pointed to scenarios such as:

“Smith has applied for a job, but, it is claimed, has a justified belief that ‘Jones will get the job.’ He also has a justified belief that ‘Jones has 10 coins in his pocket.’ Smith therefore (justifiably) concludes that ‘the man who will get the job has 10 coins in his pocket.’ In fact, Jones does not get the job. Instead, Smith does. However, as it happens, Smith (unknowingly and by sheer chance) also had 10 coins in his pocket. So his belief that ‘the man who will get the job has 10 coins…

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People Are the Problem and They Pretty Much Always Will Be

Whatever

Today PZ Myers ruminates about the problems he has with the atheist movement here in the US, much of which, from my point of view, boils down to “the problem is that there are people in it.”

Which, I will hastily note, is not me snarking. People are hierarchical, status-sensitive and in many ways fundamentally conservative creatures. We crave structure, hate disruption and are wary of outsiders and change. And some people are just plain rotten people, and those people are widely distributed. I’m not entirely sure why the atheist movement (and/or the various public examples of it) would be at all different. And given the larger society in which the atheist movement in the US exists, it’s not entirely surprising that things play out as Myers notes:

Too many atheists turn out to be just as shallow as the fervent faithful I rail against. Too many see atheism as another useless…

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Massimo Pigliucci on the boundary between science and pseudoscience

In this video, Massimo Pigliucci, the philosopher and biologist who runs the Scientia Salon site, discusses the demarcation problem, the dividing line between what is and is not science.  The distinction is easy for things like astrology and astronomy, but gets more difficult for many other areas. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBUKQWM5Jf0 I'd forgotten about Massimo's latest book on pseudoscience. … Continue reading Massimo Pigliucci on the boundary between science and pseudoscience

Virtue Ethics: an ancient solution to a modern problem

Scientia Salon

69729_aristotle_lgby Peter D.O. Smith

Introduction

This article is neither a defense of nor an attack against either religion or secularism. It treats them as well established sociological facts and no more than that. I take them as given and argue that a greater moral good can be achieved if the two belief systems find common moral ground in virtue ethics.

Why should we care?

Moral choices infuse most aspects of our life, whether we know it or not. And a great number of these moral choices are bad ones. This is why our prisons are filled to overflowing [1], and recidivism is so high at 66% [2]. This is why we have so many war dead and this is why so many die violent deaths at the hands of murderers or radical ideologues. This is also why we have such an inequitable distribution of wealth. This is why cheating is…

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Cosmic inflation appears to have shifted from settled science back to speculation

You can get background on what I'm talking about in this post here and here. Probably the best thing to do is let the experts weigh in on this. https://twitter.com/DavidSpergel/status/513848952513642497 https://twitter.com/seanmcarroll/status/513858867327823873 https://twitter.com/seanmcarroll/status/513869684647530496 https://twitter.com/AstroKatie/status/514040997139865600 It's interesting to note that the empirical evidence from BICEP2 has never been called into question, only the interpretation of that evidence. … Continue reading Cosmic inflation appears to have shifted from settled science back to speculation

The Great Recession was less severe than the Great Depression because we do learn from history.

As is quickly becoming usual, Tina at Diotima's Ladder asks excellent questions: Roosevelt and Obama: Did we avoid a Great Depression? | Diotima's Ladder. For the past week I’ve been rushing home every night to catch The Roosevelts: An Intimate History by Ken Burns. I’m not really a big Ken Burns fan. And yes, it’s the fiddle music. … Continue reading The Great Recession was less severe than the Great Depression because we do learn from history.

Free will persists even if your brain made you do it

The free will debate has been going on for millenia and, like most philosophical debates, shows little chance of being settled anytime soon.  A significant part of the debate is definitional: what do we mean when we say "free will."  We can argue endlessly about what the term should mean, but it turns out that what most … Continue reading Free will persists even if your brain made you do it

The effort at healthy living should be balanced against the fact that we are all mortal.

Ezekiel Emanuel has an interesting article at The Atlantic: Why I Hope to Die at 75 - The Atlantic. Seventy-five. That’s how long I want to live: 75 years. ... I am sure of my position. Doubtless, death is a loss. It deprives us of experiences and milestones, of time spent with our spouse and … Continue reading The effort at healthy living should be balanced against the fact that we are all mortal.

Survival machines versus engineered machines; why fears of AI are misguided

I've seen a lot of posts lately like this one by Ronald Bailey looking at Nick Bostrom's book on the dangers of AI.  People never seem to get tired of talking about the dangers of AI.  And stories about AIs who revolt against humanity are pretty much a staple of science fiction. I've written before on … Continue reading Survival machines versus engineered machines; why fears of AI are misguided