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Archive for martie 2008

2nd Philosophy Graduate Conference at CEU (II)

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Now here’s something for historians: for the first time in the human history, me and George agree 100% 🙂 So I have to subscribe to what George said here and here: it was a nice conference; Stefan deserves congratulations; I didn’t get much out of Strawson’s lecture, too; the best talks I attended were these two: Steinvör Thöll Àrnadóttir (UCL – University College London) -„Functionalism and Thinking Animals”; and Monica Jitareanu (Central European University) – „Phenomenal vs. Intentional – Ways of Conceiving Perceptual Experience and What It Means to Say It is Transparent” (I’ve heard that Lee Walters (UCL) gave another very good talk: „The Duality of Might and Would”).

In the last day of the conference, I commented Rebekah Humphreys’s (Cardiff) paper, „Contractarianism: On the Incoherence of the Exclusion of Non-Human Beings

And at dinnner time, in both days, all philosophers (young and not-so-young) showed that they know how to have fun. Here are some pictures:

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Above, from left to right: Hanoch Ben-Yami (CEU – Central European University), Tim Crane (UCL – University College London), Galen Strawson (CUNY – The City University of New York), and David Weberman (CEU).

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Above, from left to right: Eva Ferlez (CEU), Nenad Miscevic (CEU and University of Mariburg), Gabor Betegh (CEU), David Weberman (CEU), and Carl Baker (Leeds).

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Above, from left to right: Viviana Bratescu (CEU), George Tudorie (CEU), Stefan Ionescu (CEU, the conference’s sole organizer), and somebody else.

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Galen Strawson, Kati Farkas (CEU) and Tim Crane.

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Howard Robinson (CEU) and Mike Griffin (CEU)

Written by Andrei Stavilă

martie 31, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Art and Morals (Plus a Debate About Street Dogs I)

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Can anyone do everything in the name of art? Alina is researching this problem. And I think it is a serious one. The „artist” Guillermo Vargas Habacuc starved a dog to death – that was his greatest artwork! Read the news in Romanian here, and in English here and here.

Now I cannot say that an artwork cannot be considered a real work of art unless it complies with general moral principles (generally speaking: unless the artist didn’t do immoral things in order to create the work, and unless the subject treated in an artwork is also morally treated). I cannot say this, and those who do claim such a thing make a great confusion between moral standards and aesthetical standards. You cannot say that an artwork is not aesthetically valuable just because it is morally unacceptable; conversely, you cannot say that an action is morally unacceptable just because it is aesthetically not valuable.

Does this mean that there is no relation between art and morals? Of course not. The artist, as everybody else, is constrained in his artistic and non-artistic actions by moral and legal norms. You are not allowed to make an artwork if, by doing it, you cause pain to a particular being.

Now unfortunatelly, this „artwork” I am talking about here is both immoral and aethetically not valuable. It is only ablut crime and stupidity. The crime of torturing a sentient being just for fun – and the great amount of stupidity of that so-called artist.

Written by Andrei Stavilă

martie 28, 2008 at 5:52 pm

2nd Philosophy Graduate Conference at CEU (I)

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Saturday and Sunday (29 and 30 March 2008) it will take place the second Philosophy Graduate Conference at Central European University, Budapest, Hungary. The programm is here. I will comment a talk on Sunday. In the same day, you can see and listen the keynote speaker, Galen Strawson. If you’re in town, do come!

Written by Andrei Stavilă

martie 28, 2008 at 1:23 pm

The Best Defense of Ethical Intuitionism

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Probably the best defense of ethical intuitionism I’ve read is that of Pekka Väyrynen, in his article Some Good and Bad News for Ethical Intuitionism. Now here’s a synopsys of his ideas.

His intention is to defend ethical intuitionism (according to which some of our ethical knowledge is non-inferential) against an objection put forth by Nicholas Sturgeon. The thesis is this: irrespective of whether intuitionism takes non-inferential ethical knowledge to be a posteriori or a priori, intuitionism isn’t committed (as Sturgeon claims) to the existence of non-inferential knowledge in areas outside ethics in which its existence would be implausible (such as the past, the future, or the unobservable). These are the good news – but there is also bad news: even if ethical intuitionism is not committed to an implausible epistemology outside ethics, its versions (a priori and a posteriori ethical intuitionism) might be committed to an implausible epistemology within ethics.

I. So here it is, first, the standard argument for ethical intuitionism (a very clear and elegant one, in my opinion):

(S1) If we have any ethical knowledge, then that knowledge is either (a) non-inferential, or (b) based by reasonable inference on partly ethical premises, or (c) based by reasonable inference on entirely non-ethical premises

(S2) The Autonomy of Ethics: There is no reasonable inference (deductive or non-deductive) to any ethical conclusion from entirely non-ethical premises

(S3) Therefore, if we have any ethical knowledge, then that knowledge is either (a) non-inferential or (b) based by reasonable inference on at least partly ethical premises

(S4) Foundationalism: If we have any knowledge (e.g. ethical knowledge) that is inferential, then all such knowledge is ultimately based by reasonable inference on some knowledge that is non-inferential

(S5) Therefore, if we have any ethical knowledge, some of it is non-inferential

(S6) Ethical Non-Skepticism: We have some ethical knowledge

(S7) Therefore, some of our ethical knowledge is non-inferential

Since the above standard argument is valid, any critic of ethical intuitionism must reject S2 or S4

Note: foundationalism + autonomy of ethics ® a choice between intuitionism and skepticism [note that the argument can be generalized to any other topic, it is not specific to ethics]

II. Let’s see now Nicholas Sturgeon’s objection. He says that, given a certain plausible general rationale for the autonomy of ethics, intuitionism implies an implausible epistemology outside ethics, because of its commitment to foundationalism.

Sturgeon’s naturalistic “rationale” for the autonomy of ethics is this: our thought about the natural world is populated by areas that are autonomous with respect to the evidence we bring to bear on them [because assessment of evidence for theoretical conclusions are theory-dependent (the same explanation works for the autonomy of many areas of thought about the natural world]. Now the problem is that the naturalistic rationale for the autonomy of ethics comes with a high epistemological cost: it commits us to the autonomy of our thought about the past, the future and the unobservable; so the intuitionist must accept that we have non-inferential knowledge in these topics too. As a consequence, if ethical intuitionists accept the autonomy of ethics, then combining it with foundationalism commits them to an implausible overall epistemology. But to give up foundationalism is to give up ethical intuitionism.

III. Now take the following definitions:

a) a posteriori ethical intuitionism = the claim that if we have any non-inferential a posteriori knowledge, presumably some of it we have by perception.

b) a priori ethical intuitionism = the claim that some of our ethical knowledge must be non-inferential a priori knowledge.

Pekka Väyrynen shows that neither of the above versions of ethical intuitionism is committed to an implausible epistemology outside ethics. But they might be committed to an implausible epistemology within ethics. The arguments go like this:

a) in order to respond to the objection according to which all knowledge is inferential, a posteriori ethical intuitionism should hold that at least some experiences that correctly represent an ethical property as being instantiated are perceptions of that ethical property as being instantiated. Bu the problem is that establishing that we can perceive ethical properties as being instantiated is difficult. Still, if we could perceive ethical properties as being instantiated, then some ethical knowledge is non-inferential. If we can perceive ethical properties as being instantiated, it doesn’t follow that in the similar way perception gives us non-inferential knowledge about topics like the past, the future, or the unobservable. So the question remains whether the reply commits a posteriori intuitionism to an implausible epistemology within ethics. This depends crucially on whether we can perceive ethical properties as being instantiated.

b) a priori ethical intuitionism holds that a self-evident proposition is a truth any adequate understanding of which is such that (a) one has justification for believing the proposition in virtue of having that understanding of it and (b) if one believes the proposition on the basis of that understanding, then one knows it. Further, we can have non-inferential ethical knowledge on the basis of adequate understanding of certain propositions, without any further positive appeal to experience, even if experience, background beliefs, or inferences are capable of defeating our justification to believe those propositions. The only problem is whether there are self-evident ethical truths. If there are self-evident ethical truths, then one can accept both foundationalism and the autonomy of ethics without committing oneself to self-evident truths that could give us non-inferential knowledge in other areas. So the idea is that we need a reliable test for determining whether a proposition is self-evident. A priori intuitionists have yet to explain how an ethical proposition can be such that: a) an adequate understanding of it makes one to know that it is true but b) facts about its meaning or how that meaning is fixed don’t alone explain why its truth is knowable solely on the basis of an adequate understanding of it. So long as the existence of such synthetic self-evident ethical truths remain in doubt, our support for a priori intuitionism should be merely conditional.

Written by Andrei Stavilă

martie 26, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Notification

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I’ve made another page, which is called „The Wanderer”: here you can see pictures with me and others in all the places of this big world I’ve been to. Just look in the sidebar. Enjoy!

Written by Andrei Stavilă

martie 23, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Publicat în Altele

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Farewell, Arthur C. Clarke!

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As my friend Marian Coman already wrote on his blog, Arthur C. Clark has died! He was 90. Read BBC’s article here.

Good bye, Arthur C. Clarke! Some of us will never forget you!

Written by Andrei Stavilă

martie 19, 2008 at 11:11 pm

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Cornul si laptele, tzoalele si euro

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Iaca alta pomana: Mitrea propune un proiect de lege conform caruia fiecare profesor va primi anual 150 euro sa isi cumpere haine. Hai sa vedem, na concurs: care ati aflat o veste mai umilitoare si o pomana mai imbecila? Cititi aici.

Vezi, George, ce fain e sa fii prof? Nu-mi iei si mie un maieu de la un second? Da’ vezi sa fie cu gauri ca la Right Said Fred… Hai, te rog….

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martie 19, 2008 at 10:46 pm

Can Ethical Intuitionism Be Defended?

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Robert Audi defines ethical intuitionism as “the view that we can have, in the light of appropriate reflection (my emphasis!) on the content of moral judgments and moral principles, intuitive (hence non-referential) justification for holding them”. He proposes a Kantian (!!!!!) version of ethical intuitionism and attacks the common conception of intuitionism (the infallibilist, immoderately rationalist, “special faculty” view) [see his article Intuitionism, Pluralism, and the Foundations of Ethics].

Now, according to Audi, there are 4 characteristics of intuitions:

a) noninferentiality / ungroundability (what is intuitively known cannot be (evidentially) grounded in premises)

b) firmness (an intuition must be a moderately firm cognition; a mere inclination to believe is not an intuition)

c) the comprehension requirement (intuitions must be formed in the light of an adequate understanding of their propositional objects; before one can apprehend even a self-evident moral truth, one must get precisely that true proposition before one’s mind)

d) relative pretheoreticality (intuitions are pretheoretical relative to the issue in question: they are neither evidentially dependent on theories nor themselves theoretical hypotheses) (this doesn’t entail that intuition has a complete independence of theory: an intuition may be defeated in the light of theoretical results incompatible with its truth, so this is a sort of a negative epistemic dependence of intuition on theory)

While (a) and (d) seem prima facie reasonable, how can we circumscribe the scope of (b) [a “moderately firm” cognition] and (c) [an “adequate” understanding of an intuition’s propositional object]? Audi says nothing about these problems.

But there is more. Audi asks himself: if noninferential and pretheoretical, to what extent intuitions represent rationality? He answers the question by making a distinction between conclusions of inference (judgments premised on propositions one has noted as evidence) and conclusions of reflection (judgments “which are more like a response to viewing a painting or seeing an expressive face than to propositionally represented information”). He strongly denies the possible critique that “conclusions of reflections” are still based on inference – but unconvincingly to me.

And here comes the strangest thing. He makes a distinction between 2 types of self-evident propositions: (a) immediately self-evident (those self-evident propositions that are readily understood by normal adults; they are obvious, and there are degrees of obviousness); (b) mediately self-evident (those self-evident propositions understood by normal adults only through reflection (my emphasis) on the sorts of case they concern). He thinks that moral principles for intuitionism are mediately self-evident, and further, that „once we appreciate that the kind of self-evidence to which intuitionism is committed is only mediate, we can allow that intuitive moral principles, even if they are self-evident, are knowable through premises as well as by reflection on their content”.

So my question is this: if this is true, then why do we need intuitionism? If we can know moral principles „through premises” (this would be a wonderful thing, because we could logically prove which moral principle is true and which is not), then why do we need intuitionism anymore?

It seems to me that, in this case, intuitionism is superfluous – just as God is superfluous if we claim that we can scientifically explain everything, but nevertheless God exists (see a very nice parable in Anthony Flew, Theology and Falsification).

Just an aside: I think ethical intuitionism CAN be defended – the best leading authors in this field are, in my opinion, Michael Huemer – you can download (on line and free of charge) a part of his book Ethical Intuitionism – and Pekka Vayrynen. The latter wrote the best defense of ethical intuitionism I ever read, in his article Some Good and Bad News for Ethical Intuitionism. I will try to post here soon a synopsis of this article.

Written by Andrei Stavilă

martie 17, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Self-improvement / Loc de dat cu capul (va rog sa cititi in romana ceva mai jos)

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In English:

Motto: “When someone praises me, I am frightened: what if he finds out that I’m not that good as he thinks I am? When someone harshly criticizes me, I have no worry: I’m not that bad as he thinks I am” (Constantin Noica, The Philosophical Diary)

Now here’s some interactive game.

I really don’t think that I’m perfect (surprise, surprise…). Moreover: I do think that sometimes my self-esteem prevents me to see my imperfections, faults, and shortcomings. But I do believe in self-development and self-improvement (moral, or otherwise). And I also do think that those who know or only read me have something important to say in this regard.

So here’s the deal. I invite (and kindly ask) you to participate in my project of self-improvement 🙂 So please write what, according to your opinion, my imperfections, faults, and shortcomings are. Please take into account all that can be envisaged: my person, my beliefs, the way I write, and so on. I created a special page for this – just check the sidebar (under “Pages”, click “14. Self-improvement / Loc de dat cu capul”). If you like, you may make anonymous comments, or sign with a nick-name. I promise that I will not feel offended, and I will not grow angry 🙂 I also promise that I will not delete any comment (unless you submit one full of curses), and that I will take seriously into account every suggestion.

Your contribution is highly appreciated (I hope that everyone who cares about me – even if only a bit – will write something here). So be as harsh as you want to be!

In Romanian:

Motto: “Cind cineva ma lauda, sint ingrijorat: daca isi da seama ca nu sint atit de bun pe cit ma crede el? Cind cineva ma critica, sint linistit: nu sint chiar atit de slab pe cit crede” (Constantin Noica, Jurnal Filosofic)

Iata un joc interactiv.

Sincer nu cred ca sint perfect (surprinzator, nu?). Mai mult: sincer cred ca uneori buna mea parere despre mine ma impiedica sa imi vad greselile si imperfectiunile. Dar cred sincer in dezvoltarea sinelui si in imbunatatirea lui – morala in primul rind. Si cred de asemenea ca persoanele care ma cunosc, dar si cele care doar ma citesc, pot avea un important cuvint de spus in aceasta privinta.

Deci iata care-i chestiunea. Va rog sa participati in proiectul meu de a deveni… mai bun. Va rog sa scrieti care anume, in opinia voastra, sint defectele si greselile mele. Va rog sa scrieti despre tot ceea ce se poate scrie: despre persoana mea, despre ideile mele, despre modul in care scriu, si asa mai departe. Am creat o pagina speciala pentru asta – uitati-va in coloana din dreapta, la “Pages”, si apasati pe “14. Self-improvement / Loc de dat cu capul”. Daca doriti, puteti face comentarii anonime, sau va puteti semna cu un pseudonim. Promit ca nu ma voi simti jignit si nu ma voi supara 🙂 Promit de asemenea ca nu voi sterge nici un comentariu (cu exceptia celor pline de injuraturi), si ca voi lua in serios fiecare sugestie.

Contributia voastra este foarte apreciata (sper ca toata lumea care tine la mine cit-de-cit va scrie aici). Deci fiti cit de duri doriti!

Written by Andrei Stavilă

martie 14, 2008 at 5:45 pm

Eveniment editorial pe piata filosofica romaneasca

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Ma bucura nespus aparitia in limba romana a primului volum din „Contraistoria Filosofiei” a lui Michel Onfray. Atentie, se pregateste si „Crestinismul hedonist”! Citeva cuvinte despre aceste noutati aici.

Stefan, nu ne apucam si noi, pe Calculemus, sa scriem o contraistorie a filosofiei romanesti? Sau macar o istorie a imposturii filosoficesti in Romania… Asta ar fi o chestie…

Written by Andrei Stavilă

martie 12, 2008 at 10:47 pm