Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Grammar in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll was a mathematically-inclined poet who published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 and Through the Looking-Glass in 1872 as well a number of poems and math and logic texts. Last summer I saw an outdoor production of Alice in Wonderland and it reminded me of all the linguistics in the two books. Carroll touches on questions of […] The post Grammar in Wonderland appeared first on [More]

Hegel’s Aesthetics

[Revised entry by Stephen Houlgate on February 27, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] G.W.F. Hegel's aesthetics, or philosophy of art, forms part of the extraordinarily rich German aesthetic tradition that stretches from J.J. Winckelmann's Thoughts on the Imitation of the Painting and Sculpture of the Greeks (1755) and G.E. Lessing's Laocoon (1766) through Immanuel Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790) and Friedrich Schiller's Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795) to [More]

A New Paradox of Deontology

There's something odd about the view that it'd be wrong to kill one innocent even to prevent five other (comparable) killings.  Given plausible bridging principles, this implies that we should prefer Five Killings over Killing One to Prevent Five.  But that seems an odd preference: how can five killings be preferable to one?  The deontologist (like Setiya) must think that agency is playing a crucial role here.*  While we should prefer one gratuitous killing over five, there is (on this view) a special kind of killing -- killing as a means -- where the good results of the killing don't get to count. So Killing One to Prevent Five is treated as morally akin to Six Killings, rather than to One Killing.This is odd enough, but I think it gets worse.  For compare some variations of the case.  First note that if the good results of the killing-as-a-means don't get to count, then it seems it shouldn't matter to our moral verdicts whether the intended good results actually eventuate or not.  So consider Killing One in a Failed Attempt to Prevent Five (KOFAPF).  Clearly, KOFAPF is much worse an outcome than Killing One to Prevent Five (KOPF): it has the same agential intervention, but with six killings instead of just one.  So we should strongly prefer KOPF over KOFAPF.  But then how can we coherently prefer Five Killings over KOPF?KOFAPF seems broadly akin to Six Killings.  We may suppose that all the same people [More]

The Moral Problem of Grading: An Extended Analysis

[This, admittedly quite long, post is a sample chapter from a book I may end up writing about the ethics of academia. I'm interested in feedback on it. Would people be interested in an entire book examining the moral dilemmas faced by the typical academic? Is this analysis of grading any good? Let me know]Grading is the bane of most academics’ lives. Several times a year the working academic will be required to grade the students in their classes. Academics often complain about this process — begrudging both the time it takes and the mind-numbing nature of the task* — but rarely think about its ethics. Most see it as an inevitable and essential part of their jobs. If they didn’t grade students’ exams and assignments then what would be the point of all that teaching? It seems so obvious that grading is the natural denouement of teaching. It’s always been done and if it wasn’t done it would be weird. Students would complain and the general public would start to wonder what people are doing in universities. So, instead of subjecting the practice to close ethical scrutiny, most academics prefer to view it with ironic detachment. They laugh about it and then they get on with it.A famous illustration of this ironic detachment is Daniel Solove’s article about the ’Staircase Method’ of grading. Solove, a law professor at George Washington University, first wrote about the method in the lead up to ‘marking season’ at his university. He realised that many of his colleagues would soon [More]

Method and Metaphysics in Plato’s Sophist and Statesman

[Revised entry by Mary-Louise Gill on February 26, 2020. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] The Sophist and Statesman are late Platonic dialogues, whose relative dates are established by their stylistic similarity to the Laws, a work that was apparently still "on the wax" at the time of Plato's death (Diogenes Laertius 3.37). These dialogues are important in exhibiting Plato's views on method and metaphysics after he criticized his own most famous contribution to the history of philosophy, the theory [More]