Tag Archives | Unethical Philosophy

Hilary Putnam R.I.P.

One of the greatest and most influential philosophers of the past half-century – and one of my favourite professors from my undergraduate days – has died.


Putnam was not only brilliant; he was also usually right. His arguments for direct perception, moral realism, and (most famously) the causal theory of reference, as well as his arguments against skepticism, reductionism, positivism, Kuhnianism, and type-identity theories of mind, are groundbreaking and incisive. I’m not convinced by his best-known positive theory of mind (functionalism), by his dirigist politics, or by his sometime critique of metaphysical realism. (During his antirealist phase, Putnam thought that the only way we can avoid skepticism is to reject the view that truth is radically non-epistemic; but I suggest that Putnam’s own work lays the foundation for a different solution, namely, rejecting the view that belief and consciousness are radically non-alethic.) But as I’ve written elsewhere, “everyone working today in philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, or philosophy of science toils in the shadow of his revolutionary achievements.”


Here’s a nice piece by Martha Nussbaum about Putnam (CHT Dan Ust) – though I don’t agree with her claim that Aristotle made no contributions to philosophy of language or religion.

Missing the Train to Elea

Popular culture gets Zeno’s paradox wrong again:


There’s a widespread impression that Zeno’s proposed problem is that after you reach the halfway point to your destination, you then have to go halfway to the remaining distance, and so on ad infinitum, so that you get closer and closer to your goal but never reach it.

But that’s not how the paradox goes. The problem is much worse. The paradox is that before you can get halfway to your destination, you have to get halfway to the halfway point, and so on ad infinitum, so that you can never even start moving. (Here’s Rose Wilder lane making the same mistake.)

Probably the mistake arose from someone conflating this paradox with another of Zeno’s paradox, the Achilles, in which the fastest runner gets closer and closer to catching up to the slowest runner.

Demon-Haunted Providence



I spent last weekend in Providence, at Brown’s Political Theory Project (right next to H. P. Lovecraft Memorial Square), at a workshop (my second one) on Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi’s excellent forthcoming history of libertarianism.

My taxi driver was the nephew of Roderick Chisholm! He told me of Chisholm’s accordionist skills; I told him that his uncle’s name had become a verb.

Call for Papers: Alabama Philosophical Society

This year’s APS will be October 2-3 in Pensacola; submission deadline is August 2nd. Note also the undergrad essay contest (Alabama students only), which pays $100 plus one night’s stay at the conference hotel.

More info here.

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