Tag Archives | Unethical Philosophy

Vernal Venturings

Two weeks ago I was in New Orleans for the PPE conference. I gave a talk at a panel on self-ownership, and moderated two panels I’d organised, one on anarchist legal theory (with [a subset of] the Molinari/C4SS gang), and one on race and social construction. We discovered a great 24-hour Middle Eastern restaurant, Cleo’s (the new one on Decatur, not the old one-inside-a-grocery on Canal).

Last week, back in Auburn, I attended our department’s 11th annual philosophy conference, this one on explanation and idealisation in science. During Q&A I rode my precisive/non-precisive hobbyhorse as usual.

Right now I’m in San Diego for the WPSA, where I’ll be presenting my Shakespeare/Godwin/Kafka talk. Yesterday I stopped by the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore and bought volumes 6 and 7 in the Expanse series (which I’ll be blogging about in due course; just for now I’ll say: it’s good, read it). Had a delicious farfalle al salmone last night at a sidewalk table at Buon Appetito in Little Italy, and enjoyed an omelette-and-bagel breakfast this morning at Harbor Breakfast to the sound of great jazz songs old and new. (I’ve also been violating the laws of physics, because why not?)

(The day before catching my plane from Atlanta to San Diego, I’d planned to drive up early, go to a bookstore in Atlanta, have a leisurely dinner, and then spend the night at a hotel. But the threat of tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and two-inch hailstones kept me in Auburn until the evening when the forecast expired, so by the time I got to Atlanta there was time only for a quick bite at the 24-hour Waffle House across from the hotel.)

Next week I’m off to Prague, where I’ll be giving a workshop on praxeology at the CEVRO Institute, and then presenting a slightly revised version of my Čapek/Kafka/Hašek talk (yes, more Kafka!) at the PCPE. (The revision is a very slightly fuller discussion of my suggestion that Kafka’s bureaucratic nightmares are intended to be read at two levels – a political level, where they’re condemned, and a theological level, where they’re not. There’ll be a print version eventually, inshallah.)

Mislocating Disjunctivism

I recently re-read Srinivasa Rao’s Perceptual Error: The Indian Theories, which I don’t especially recommend. (A much better book on the same subject is B. K. Matilal’s Perception: An Essay on Classical Indian Theories of Knowledge.)

But one thing that especially puzzled me this time around is Rao’s treatment of perceptual disjunctivism. (For what I mean by perceptual disjunctivism, see pp. 15-18 of this). Rao does not actually use the term “disjunctivism,” but that’s what he seems to be talking about in his Introduction, and what he says about it is that it’s the prevailing view in modern western epistemology, but is generally rejected in traditional Indian philosophy, including Nyaya.

That struck me as doubly odd. First of all, we disjunctivists are all too aware that we’ve been decidedly in the minority in western thought ever since Descartes. Second, the Nyaya school’s approach has always struck me as disjunctivist in spirit. If I’m right, then Rao has gotten things precisely reversed.

Hence I’m pleased to find an article that supports my impression of Nyaya: “Parasitism and Disjunctivism in Nyaya Epistemology” by Matthew R. Dasti.

To Pelias Thus the Hasty Prince Repair’d

Another LWMA interview: Joel Williamson interviews Jason Lee Byas on (inter alia) radical liberalism, right-wing tribalism, the wage system, and the importance of having an intersecting mix of market-based and non-market-based social forms in an anarchist society:

CFP: Alabama Philosophical Society 2018

This year’s Alabama Philosophical Society meeting will be September 28-29 in Pensacola; submission deadline is August 1st. Note also the undergrad essay contest (Alabama students only), which pays $100 plus one night’s stay at the conference hotel.

More info here.

To and Fro Upon the Earth

Last week I gave a talk on Lockean vs. Kantian takes on property rights in a state of nature at the PPE Society meeting in New Orleans. The conference had loads of libertarian academics; check out the participant list. Ann Cudd gave a keynote address criticising libertarians for being social atomists who don’t believe in any positive moral obligations; she seemed genuinely surprised that the assembled libertarians took exception to this characterisation. As a culminating irony she even offered, as a supposed critique of libertarianism, an analysis of Robinson Crusoe virtually identical to Bastiat’s.

(Incidentally, for anyone visiting New Orleans I highly recommend the shrimp and grits at Café Fleur de Lis and, as always, anything at Sukho Thai.)

Upon my return, I gave a talk on the relation between philosophical thought-experiments and fantastic fiction at the Auburn Philosophy Club’s panel on Fantasy, Fiction, and Philosophy here in Auburn.

Tomorrow I leave for gigs at the Pacific APA in San Diego and the APEE in Las Vegas; see the next post for details.

Then I’ll be coming back just in time for the Auburn Philosophy department’s conference on Practical Reasoning.

The Invisible East

In the 3rd edition of Classics of Philosophy – which is, ironically, one of the texts I’m using in my “Philosophy East and West” course – Louis Pojman and Lewis Vaughn write:

The first philosophers were Greeks of the sixth century B.C. living on the Ionian coast of the Aegean Sea, in Miletus, Colophon, Samos, and Ephesus. Other people in other cultures had wondered about these questions, but usually religious authority or myth had imposed an answer. … The Great Civilizations of Egypt, China, Assyria, Babylon, Israel, and Persia … had produced art and artifacts and government of advanced sorts, but nowhere, with the possible exception of India, was anything like philosophy or science developed. Ancient India was the closest civilization to produce philosophy, but it was always connected with religion, with the question of salvation or the escape from suffering. Ancient Chinese thought, led by Confucius (551-475 B.C.), had a deep ethical dimension. But no epistemology or formulated logic. (pp. 3-4)

Is this true?

The two earliest Upanishads – the Brihadaranyaka-upanishad and the Chhandogya-upanishad – are generally dated to the 7th century BCE or earlier. They contain clear examples of philosophical argumentation. So why don’t their authors – or the thinkers whose views they purport to record (e.g., Yajñavalka and Uddalaka) – count as Indian philosophers antecedent to the Greeks?

Apparently because their views were “connected with religion” and “the question of salvation.” Yet Classics of Philosophy contains writings by Augustine, Anselm, Maimonides, Aquinas, Pascal, and Kierkegaard – for all of whom philosophy was closely bound up with religious questions. If this connection doesn’t invalidate their claim to be philosophers, why does it invalidate the like claim of their Indian predecessors?

In any case, it is not even true that all early Indian philosophical thought is connected with religion. The Charvaka or Lokayata school, which was atheistic, materialistic, and hedonistic, is generally dated to the late 7th century BCE as well – thus again antedating the Greeks.

As for why the early Chinese thinkers are ruled out as philosophers, we’re told it’s because, although they had a “deep ethical dimension,” they had “no epistemology or formulated logic.” So epistemology and logic are philosophy but ethics is not?

And anyway it’s not true that early Chinese thought had no epistemology or formulated logic. Even if we leave aside the exploration of logical paradoxes by such thinkers as Zhuangzi, Hui Shi, and Gongsun Long, we have a pretty clear example of epistemology and formulated logic in the Mohist Canons.

Of course the Mohist Canons date to around the 3rd century BCE, so if Pojman and Vaughn are making only a claim of chronological priority, they’re entitled to dismiss them. But the tone of the passage certainly offers no hint that these Chinese and Indian traditions got more philosophical later. And the fact that no Indian or Chinese sources appear in an anthology titled Classics of Philosophy (rather than, say, Classics of Western Philosophy) suggests that they don’t regard even later Chinese and Indian thought as containing anything worthy of the status of philosophic classic. The sophisticated logical and epistemological debates among the Navya-Nyaya, Purva-Mimamsa, Vyakarana, and Sautrantika-Yogachara schools, for instance, count for nothing, apparently.

It was bad enough when Antony Flew ignorantly declared in 1971 that Eastern Philosophy contains no arguments, but this is the 21st century, for petesake.

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