Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Computational Philosophy

[New Entry by Patrick Grim and Daniel Singer on March 16, 2020.] Computational philosophy is the use of mechanized computational techniques to instantiate, extend, and amplify philosophical research. Computational philosophy is not philosophy of computers or computational techniques; it is rather philosophy using computers and computational techniques. The idea is simply to apply advances in computer technology and techniques to advance discovery, exploration and argument within any philosophical [More]

Bezos, billionaires and the problem with big philanthropy

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos made headlines this year for his pledge to donate $10 billion of his fortune to fight climate change. The money sounds like a lot, and the announcement did compel the usual flurry of media articles that trail in the wake of any big gift announcement from household billionaire names. But the tone of the media coverage this time was more sceptical than in the past.Something’s changed in the world of big philanthropy. More people today are hesitant to assume that billionaires can solve the problems that face us globally, from deepening inequality, to growing numbers of refugees, to the climate emergency. Why can’t they solve them? Because the mega-wealthy can’t save us from problems their business practices have compounded in the first place.The mega-wealthy can’t save us from problems their business practices have compounded in the first placeFrom tax avoidance to lobbying for self-regulation in the area of international business supply chains, today’s [More]

What is the place of human beings in the world

Philosophers disagree on what philosophy is supposed to do, but one popular candidate for what is part of the philosophical project is to try to understand the place of human beings in the world. What is our significance in the world as whole? What place do human beings have in the universe and in all of […] The post What is the place of human beings in the world appeared first on OUPblog.         Related StoriesLet people change their mindsHow fake things can still help us learnThe remarkable life of philosopher Frank [More]

No Utility Cascades

Max Hayward has an interesting paper, 'Utility Cascades', forthcoming in Analysis.  We're told: "Utility Cascades occur when a utilitarian’s reduction of support for an intervention reduces the effectiveness of that intervention, leading the utilitarian to further reduce support [...] in a negative spiral." (p.1)  The basic puzzle Hayward sets up involves the following additional assumptions:(1) Holding fixed their (practical) normative commitments, accurate/rational updating can (often!) tip utilitarians into a utility cascade.(2) This "negative spiral" predictably makes things worse than if the utilitarian had stuck with their initial level of support, even given that the intervention is less effective than initially believed.Putting these together, we obtain a surprising apparent tension between epistemic and practical normativity for utilitarians.  For, Hayward suggests, it would often promote predictably better results for utilitarians to bury their heads in the sand rather than rationally updating on new evidence of the sort that might trigger a utility cascade.It's a fun argument.  But I don't see how (1) and (2) could both be true.  After all, if the act of reducing support for intervention X would predictably have worse results than maintaining initial levels of support, then utilitarianism straightforwardly requires the latter.Why does Hayward believe otherwise?  He describes Bill, supposedly an act [More]

Plato's Philebus: A Philosophical Discussion

2020.03.13 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Panos Dimas, Russell E. Jones, and Gabriel R. Lear (eds.), Plato's Philebus: A Philosophical Discussion, Oxford University Press, 2019, 285pp., $70.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198803386. Reviewed by Sylvain Delcomminette, Université libre de Bruxelles This volume launches the "Plato Dialogue Project" (PDP), which aims at gathering scholars every third year to scrutinize a single Platonic dialogue. Although it is not explicit, it seems clear that the project is intended to offer an alternative to the Symposium Platonicum (SP) organized every third year by the International Plato Society. The comparison between this volume and the one stemming from the recent SP devoted to the Philebus[1] is instructive. The SP volume collects more than fifty papers (only a selection of those delivered at the Symposium) of various lengths written in five languages by scholars from around the world, both junior and established, and working in different scholarly traditions, who have answered a... Read [More]