Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

#64 - Munthe on the Precautionary Principle and Existential Risk

In this episode I talk to Christian Munthe. Christian is a Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. He conducts research and expert consultation on ethics, value and policy issues arising in the intersection of health, science & technology, the environment and society. He is probably best-known for his work on the precautionary principle and its uses in ethical and policy debates. This was the central topic of his 2011 book The Price of Precaution and the Ethics of Risk. We talk about the problems with the practical application of the precautionary principle and how they apply to the debate about existential risk. You can download the episode here or listen below.You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and a variety of other podcasting services (the RSS feed is here). Show Notes0:00 - Introduction1:35 - What is the precautionary principle? Where did it come from?6:08 - The key elements of the precautionary principle9:35 - Precaution vs. Cost Benefit Analysis15:40 - The Problem of the Knowledge Gap in Existential Risk21:52 - How do we fill the knowledge gap?27:04 - Why can't we fill the knowledge gap in the existential risk debate?30:12 - Understanding the Black Hole Challenge35:22 - Is it a black hole or total decisional paralysis?39:14 - Why does precautionary reasoning have a 'price'?44:18 - Can we develop a normative theory of precautionary reasoning? Is there such a thing as a morally good precautionary reasoner?52:20 - [More]

Formal Methods in Philosophy: Initial Thoughts and an Interactive Event (guest post by Liam Kofi Bright)

Plausible answers as to the nature of our mission as philosophy educators gives us no unique reason to focus on logic as the mathematical tool of interest to philosophers. The following is a guest post* by Liam Kofi Bright (London School of Economics) about the justifications philosophers offer for requiring their students to have instruction in logic, over other formal methods, and about his role facilitating worldwide participation in an upcoming event on this topic. Formal Methods in Philosophy by Liam Kofi Bright Every year a great many philosophy departments force both graduate and undergraduate students to learn at least some mathematical logic. For these departments, some basic ability to deploy mathematical reasoning is part of the normatively expected skill set of the philosopher. What is more, we do not tend to insist on knowledge of other formal theories in the same way—logic is picked out as an especially relevant branch of mathematics. Why is that? There are two things I want to suggest about this. First, the justifications I have heard of for this would mandate making instruction in other formal tools or theories besides just logic obligatory. Second, the available justifications for this reflect deep and abiding disagreements concerning what constitutes good philosophy. The first and most frequent justification one hears for our logic teaching is that we are bound to carry on the philosophical tradition wherein logic has played a big role. What’s more, [More]

Exemplars of Truth

2019.09.14 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Keith Lehrer, Exemplars of Truth, Oxford University Press, 2019, 155pp., $65.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780190884277. Reviewed by Ted Poston, University of Alabama Keith Lehrer has been defending a coherentist account of knowledge for close to half a century. His book Knowledge (1974) articulates a careful and sophisticated account of knowledge according to which knowledge requires answering every objection to a claim from a background system of beliefs that doesn't rely on error. Over the years Lehrer has modified his account of knowledge in response to various criticisms. In this, his latest book, he continues to defend a broadly coherentist account of knowledge with some surprising changes to his earlier view. The most significant departure from his earlier view is that he now explicitly allows for justification by way of experience and in a way that provides a guarantee of truth. This... Read [More]