Adventures in Ethics and Science


Welcome to Philosophers’ Carnival #32, a monthly blogospheric showcase of philosophical musings.

As you wander through the exhibit tents, experience the wonders created by minds with time to ponder (and keyboards with which to capture that pondering). Please remember that unused game tickets are not subject to refund, and that the carnies are independent contractors, not employees of Philosophers’ Carnival Industries LLC.

Also, a quick administrative note: Due to some unpleasantness with the 4-H goats, the Epistemology tent was, er, eaten. Thus, epistemology exhibits have been moved to the Mentalists Mainstage.

Ethics Exhibit Hall

*The Splintered Mind
“The Problem of the Ethics Professors”
Eric Schwitzgebel asks: Why don’t ethics professors behave any better than the rest of us? Does ethical reflection have no impact on moral behavior?

*El Blog de Marcos
“God and Morality”
Marco asks: Is there a way round the Euthyphro dilemma?

*Philosophy From The Left Coast
“Moral Demands and Social Justice”
Many philosophers argue against demanding moral theories such as consequentialism by suggesting that there is a limit to how much morality can demand of individuals. Brian Berkey argues that the collective obligation to pursue social justice implies that there is a floor to moral demands. Morality must demand at least that each individual discharge her fair share of the collective burden to achieve social justice.

*Atheist Ethicist
“Killing an Innocent Child”
In earlier posts in his blog Alonzo Fyfe wrote that it is permissible to kill an innocent child to prevent a nuclear weapon from going off in a distant city. In a different entry he said it was wrong to kill a neighbor child even to save one’s own family. Here he examines the principles that govern these two cases and the range of cases in between, as viewed from the perspective of desire utilitarianism.

“Whom to Forgive: The Nazi or the Parent who Sexually Abused his Child”
Laurence Thomas argues that the moral obnoxiousness of a sexual child abuser who abuses his own child is worse than a Nazi. He concludes that where forgiveness is a restoring of trust it cannot be done for the child abuser who abuses their own child.

Mentalists Mainstage

*Thoughts Arguments and Rants
“Fundamentalism and Knowledge”
Brian Weatherson wonders whether fundamentalism might be a problem for everyone:

If we have epistemological standards high enough that knowledge requires ruling out outlandish possibilities, such as the possibility of various properties that are always correlated in the actual world (and in most salient counterfactual worlds) coming apart, then we should also say that knowledge requires ruling out salient impossibilities.

*Philosophy Journal
“A slippery slope argument against G theories.”
What is the nature of well-being? Michele argues that: any theory that buys some sort of experience requirement will be as unattractive as Mental Statism (infamous theory that says you be better off in the Matrix.). (What she refers to as G-theories are mixed theories like Richard’s “Veridical Enjoyment” view.)

*On Philosophy
“Epiphenomenalism as an Objection to Several Philosophical Ideas”
This post attempts to demonstrate that there are certain constraints on what we can possibly know about the objective world, and that the entities posited by certain theories are impossible to have knowledge about/evidence for, nor can they have an observable effect on the world, and thus should be discarded.

*Plurality of words
“Does knowledge entail truth?”
Andreas Stokke argues that although knowledge entails truth, knowability does not.

*The Evangelical libertarian philosopher
“Berkeley’s Taxonomy of Ideas”
Kenny Pearce discusses the different types of ideas in George Berkeley’s epistemology/philosophy of mind, with reference to his critique of Locke’s account of abstraction and his possible influence on Kant’s epistemology of metaphysics.

*What is it Like to Be a Blog?
“Skepticism About the Contextualist Response to Skepticism”
Aaron Cotnoir argues that an unwelcome consequence of contextualist epistemology is the commitment to contextualism about truth.

Metaphysical Kitchen Theater

*Philosophy, et cetera
“What is Existence?”
Richard Chappell questions whether certain ontological debates are really about anything at all:

I distinguish between two sorts of existence claims, depending on how they relate to the space of (epistemically) possible worlds. In the first case, we are given a space of scenarios and the existence claim serves to narrow down the empirical question of which scenario is actual. In the second type of case, philosophers dispute how to correctly describe the various scenarios in the first place (“is that a table, or merely atoms arranged tablewise?”). I propose that only the first sort of dispute, involving a genuine narrowing of the possibilities, is really meaningful.

*Guide to Reality
“What Physicalism Can’t Allow”
Steve Esser consideres whether necessary “inter-level” metaphysical relations which go beyond physics are allowed or not for the physicalist.

*Path Effect
“To The Extent”
This post explores alternatives in a distinction-based conception of reality:

… we’re free at any time to ask “what if”, and since life can only reasonably taken to be defined as “everything”, where are the rest of those “what if” alternatives? Aren’t they things among “everything” too? Our conclusion there was that these alternatives are here too. This means that any “what if” we conceive can be seen to exist. We will consider this again, but say further that alternatives aren’t only hidden but, accepting contradictions, actual simultaneous to that which they are alternate to–we will say “to the extent that” they exist.

Civics exhibits

*Daylight Atheism
“Taking Beckwith Seriously?” posted at hell’s handmaiden.
Francis Beckwith recently published Taking Theology Seriously: The Status of The Religious Beliefs of Judicial Nominees for the Federal Bench in which he argues for a place for theology on the federal bench. His case turns on the idea that theology is a knowledge tradition similar to history or mathematics, but this is a case he nowhere makes in his paper.

Media Tent

“Ethics, professional ethics, and bloggers.”
Lindsay Beyerstein asks, are the ethics of the blogosphere more stringent than those of traditional journalism when it comes to respecting anonymity?

*the naked gaze
“What goes around”
Carlos Rojas uses a recent Liberty Mutual commercial, together with Gregory Hoblit’s 1998 thriller, Fallen, in order to read Richard Dawkin’s theory of memes against itself.

The Carnival Fairway: Linguistic contortionism, feats of strength, probabilities, and games of chance

*Humbug! Online
“What a good theory is…”
A seeker after truth ought not to dismiss any theory a priori. However, given the numerous theories continually generated by wackos, it’s a good idea to have a handle on what constitutes a genuine scientific theory, and what doesn’t.

*the boundaries of language
“Tales of the Inexpressible”
Jason Stanley has recently offered a very downbeat evaluation of the contribution Wittgenstein’s ‘Tractatus’ made to 20th Century Philosophy. Here Aidan McGlynn offers some of his own grounds for taking a much more positive view of the book, focusing on its philosophy of language and logic.

*Philosophy of Real Mathematics
“Dawid on probabilities”
David Corfield discusses Phil Dawid’s synthesis of several strands of ideas on probabilities, leading to a testable form of Bayesianism.

*Ali Eteraz presents “Between Power and Beauty, A Man” posted at Unwilling Self-Negation:

An interesting thing happened in college: I started to believe that all human interactions occur because one person is attempting to exert his power on another person or on any given situation. The evidence for this view was considerable. Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Adorno and Horkheimer, Derrida and Foucault, had deconstructed everything humanity ever did, and revealed all human interaction to be rooted in the pursuit of power.

I stopped believing that people could act in the name of God, or consideration (these two aren’t always synonymous). If people said they were working for God, I deconstructed, they were working to incresae their power. If they said they were economically motivated, it was to increase their power. In other words, once everything was reduced to a pursuit of power, I could not find a way out of this way of thinking.

How well does this world-view fly when you’re trying to connect with other human beings (like, say, women)?

*Think Tonk
“Intentional action and side-effects”
Should we say that the side-effects of our actions are brought about intentionally or not? Joshua Knobe discovered that if you ask, most people will say that a side-effect was brought about intentionally if they think that what was brought about was bad but not if they think that it was good.
Clayton Littlejohn explains why we shouldn’t be surprised by this answer.

Continental Philosophy Beer Garden

*Heideggerian Denken
“Presencing and Essencing”
Kevin Winters serves up a non-traditional approach to the notion of ‘essence,’ seen in terms of Martin Heidegger’s ‘presencing’ in man’s comportment. By bringing beings into various contexts that are dominated by certain norms, intentions, and motivations, man (Dasein) essences beings by disclosing their relevant aspects.

*Joe Kissell presents “Phenomenology: Interesting Thing of the Day” posted at Interesting Thing of the Day.
What happens when you cross introspection with the scientific method? You get phenomenology, the philosophical science of experience.

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We hope you enjoyed the carnival. Do grab a funnel-cake on your way out, and don’t forget that Philosophers’ Carnival #33 will be hosted at the boundaries of language on July 24th!


  1. #1 matt
    July 4, 2006

    i just stumbled upon your blog, and therefore this carnival, and i love it. i don’t have time enough to come close to reading all of the posts linked to here, but hopefully i will be able to read more than a few in the coming days. looks like you’ve got a good thing going on here, which might just be enough to prompt me to return with some regularity.

    keep up the good work!

  2. #2 menek┼če ile halil
    September 14, 2007

    How well does this world-view fly when you’re trying to connect with other human beings (like, say, women)?

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