The problem with philosophical thought experiments

James Wilson has an article up at Aeon, looking at the trolley problem and other ethical and philosophical thought experiments.  One of the things he discusses is the notion that many philosophers have, along with many fans of particular thought experiments, that they're sort of like a scientific experiment.  It's not that unusual for someone … Continue reading The problem with philosophical thought experiments

Platonism and the non-physical

On occasion, I've been accused of being closed-minded.  (Shocking, I know.)  Frequently the reason is not seriously considering non-physical propositions, a perception of rigid physicalism.  However, as I've noted before, I'm actually not entirely comfortable with the "physicalist" label (or "materialist", or other synonyms or near synonyms).  While it's fairly accurate as to my working … Continue reading Platonism and the non-physical

Inflate and explode, or deflate and preserve?

Philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel has an interesting post up criticizing the arguments of illusionists, those who have concluded that phenomenal consciousness is an illusion. Here's a way to deny the existence of things of Type X. Assume that things of Type X must have Property A, and then argue that nothing has Property A. If that … Continue reading Inflate and explode, or deflate and preserve?

Are there things that are knowable but not measurable?

It's a mantra for many scientists, not to mention many business managers, that if you can't measure it, it's not real.  On the other hand, I've been told by a lot of people, mostly non-scientists, and occasionally humanistic scholars including philosophers, that not everything knowable is measurable. But what exactly is a measurement?  My intuitive understanding … Continue reading Are there things that are knowable but not measurable?

What do scientific theories actually tell us about the world?

One of the things that's exciting about learning new things, is that often a new understanding in one area sheds light on what might seem like a completely separate topic.  For me, information about how the brain works appears to have shed new light on a question in the philosophy of of science, where there has long … Continue reading What do scientific theories actually tell us about the world?

Libertarian free will is incoherent, and that’s good for responsibility

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCGtkDzELAI For a while, I'd considered myself done debating free will, having expressed everything about it I had to say.  However, with this Crash Course video, and in light of the discussion on physicality we had earlier this summer, I realized I do have some additional thoughts on it. Just a quick reminder: I'm a compatibilist.  I'm convinced … Continue reading Libertarian free will is incoherent, and that’s good for responsibility

Don’t trust your emotions. They will betray you.

I've mentioned before that my views have changed dramatically over the years.  But thinking about that the other day, it occurred to me that most of that change happened in a fairly narrow period.  At the beginning of 2004, I was still a nominal Catholic, often voted Republican, was suspicious of gays and other non-traditional groups, and … Continue reading Don’t trust your emotions. They will betray you.