It’s another Friday, and thus another chance to write some cheesy filler sentences up here at the top to let you know that I have a Weekly Link Roundup coming. All you really need to know is that it contains summaries of this week’s essays and summaries of all the discussions I’ve have in the last week to ensure that you stay on top of this blog’s happenings. Then it contains a very large helping of links that I’ve found around the ‘net that I want to make sure people see. Enjoy!
- Monday, June 11 >> The Failures of Foreign Aid (And Some Potential Fixes): “Foreign aid aims to eliminate extreme hunger, extreme poverty, and disease from the world altogether and usher everyone into lives in which they can be happy and live to their potential. Because foreign aid is perhaps the biggest attempt to make the world a better place, it is important to me that we get this right. Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten it right quite yet. It may seem wildly idealistic to believe that extreme poverty, extreme hunger, and disease can be eliminated soon, Peter Singer in his book “The Life You Can Save” argues that the elimination of all three plights is within our reach if only we studied foreign aid, looked at its failures, and made some modifications. In this essay, I explore his chapter on foreign aid.”
- Tuesday, June 12 >> Categorical Ought as Rhetorical Ought: “In this essay, I further demonstrate end-relational theory by accounting for hypothetical and categorical imperatives, and specifically look at normative ought statements that avoid making use of standards as much as possible. I find that ought statements often have both a descriptive and emotive component, and that categorical imperatives are end-relational imperatives that drop the implied standard for rhetorical effect.”
- Wednesday, June 13 >> Heaven, Coddling Gods, and Other Theodicies: “I’ve been writing a lot about the Problem of Evil, and fortunately or unfortunately, I’m about to get back into the fray. I’ve previously made my argument — The Almost Problem of Evil — clear. Cl, a Christian blogger I regularly correspond with, has responded to this argument suggesting that P4 is false, because he has a theodicy that allows would allow us to infer that God has sufficient reasons to allow suffering. In this essay, I address his theodicy.”
- Thursday, June 14 >> An Economics Research Proposal and Blog Project: “Quite ironically, the fields of study I study most in school — Political Science, Psychology, and Economics — are some of the fields of study I have written about least on this blog. Mainly it’s because for the past year and a half I’ve been so immensely consumed with figuring out this religion thing, but I’ve long wanted to swing the philosophy/theology pendulum back a bit in favor of the stuff that I do in my day job. Thus, for this blog, I offer a research project that I will be doing this summer.”
This week brought in 71 more on-site comments. Here are the summaries of the discussion so you can get involved, or just know what’s going on:
At “Categorical Ought as Rhetorical Ought” we discuss whether end-relational theory really can handle the semantics involved in discussing moral claims.
At “Jumping Over The Is-Ought Gap (Draft)” we continue to talk about differences between moral realism and moral anti-realism, and the nature of moral claims.
At “Cl, Bubonic Plagues, and Bibles, Part II” we do a bit more back-and-forth work to figure out what Cl is arguing and how I may have unintentionally misrepresented his arguments.
At “Is Zero Even, Odd, Both, or Neither” I address how zero is still even despite having some properties of odd numbers.
A fair amount of commenting also occurred over at Cl’s side of the pond on his TheWarfareIsMental blog:
On “The Official Cult of Gnu Survey” we discussed attitudes toward the so-called “New Atheists”, plus websites that are effective at communicating Christianity and debunking the overconfidence of New Atheists.
On “Oh Yeah, Big Difference”, we discuss some of how moral progress can be accounted for on a naturalistic basis.
Nothing to report!
Now it’s time for everyone’s favorite links to other cool places, for more ideas to share! As always,
(1) The links are also ordered so that the ones I like most are at the top, for those who don’t have time for all the links… but for those who do have time, I think all of them are worthwhile.
(2) The Link Roundup category has, I’d estimate, over 500 more links if you need the extra distraction. At a link an hour, that’s 20+ days of constant reading. If you budgeted 8 hours a day to constantly read these links, at a link per hour, that would take over two months. Fun facts!
(3) I don’t necessarily agree with everything said by these links; I just post what I find to be interesting and well-written. If you want to know whether I support a particular opinion you see, feel free to ask.
- America Isn’t A Corporation : “But there’s a deeper problem in the whole notion that what this nation needs is a successful businessman as president: America is not, in fact, a corporation. Making good economic policy isn’t at all like maximizing corporate profits. And businessmen — even great businessmen — do not, in general, have any special insights into what it takes to achieve economic recovery. Why isn’t a national economy like a corporation? For one thing, there’s no simple bottom line. For another, the economy is vastly more complex than even the largest private company.”
- Free Will – mere semantic quibble?: “The real disagreement is about the meaning of ‘free’, about whether it requires a categorical ‘could’, or merely a hypothetical one. Clearly the incompatibalist intends his use of ‘could’ to be interpreted categorically[. ...] Given that premise 2 is thus a logical truth, any counterargument must instead attack the first premise. [...] Put another way, it is a redefinition of freedom to mean ‘not coerced’, rather than ‘not (deterministically) caused’. [...] Is this whole debate really that trivial? Well, not exactly. After all, we do use the word ‘freedom’ a lot, so it’s fairly important to be clear about which concept we are referring to. The really important question, then, is ‘which concept (F1 or F2) is most useful for our purposes (when using the word ‘freedom’)?’ That, I think, is what the free will debate is really all about.”
- Evolutionary Psychology: “This historical fact about the origin of anger confuses all too many people. They say, ‘Wait, are you saying that when I’m angry, I’m subconsciously trying to have children? That’s not what I’m thinking after someone punches me in the nose.’ No. No. No. NO! Individual organisms are best thought of as adaptation-executers, not fitness-maximizers. The cause of an adaptation, the shape of an adaptation, and the consequence of an adaptation, are all separate things. If you built a toaster, you wouldn’t expect the toaster to reshape itself when you tried to cram in a whole loaf of bread; yes, you intended it to make toast, but that intention is a fact about you, not a fact about the toaster. The toaster has no sense of its own purpose.”
- The Fivefold Challenge: “Fundamentalist Christians claim that the Bible is a historically accurate work in every detail. They delight in showing how ‘modern archaeology”‘has verified this little biblical detail or that minor biblical event. But something they don’t talk about much is the failure of modern archaeology to confirm some major events in the Bible.”
- Why Did God Create Atheists?: “Why did God create atheists? This is a question I always want to ask religious believers. (One of many questions, actually. ‘What evidence do you have that God is real?’ and ‘Why are religious beliefs so different and so contradictory?’ are also high on the list.) If God is real, and religious believers are perceiving a real entity… why is anyone an atheist? Why don’t we all perceive him? If God is powerful enough to reach out to believers just by sending out his thoughts or love or whatever… why isn’t he powerful enough to reach all of us? Why is there anyone who doesn’t believe in him? [...] I’ve seen a couple of religious responses to this question. Neither of which is very satisfactory. But they keep coming up… so today, I want to take them on.”
- Causality and Moral Responsibility: “This, it seems to me, is the very essence of moral responsibility – in the one case, for a cowardly choice; in the other case, for a heroic one. And I don’t see what difference it makes, if John’s decision was physically deterministic given his initial conditions, or if John’s decision was preplanned by some alien creator that built him out of carbon atoms, or even if – worst of all – there exists some set of understandable psychological factors that were the very substance of John and caused his decision.”
- Meta-Research: “Meta-research refers to improving the incentives in the academic world, to bring them more in line with producing work of maximal benefit to society. Below, we discuss  Problems and potential solutions we perceive for (the incentives within) development economics, the area of academia we’re currently most familiar with.  Some preliminary thoughts on the potential of meta-research interventions in other fields, particularly medicine.  Why we find meta-research so promising and high-priority as a cause.  Our plans at the moment for investigating meta-research further.”
- How We All Pay For the Huge Tax Privileges Granted to Religion — It’s Time to Tax the Church: “By some estimates, the property tax exemption alone removes $100 billion in property from U.S. tax rolls, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.”
- There Is No Progress in Philosophy [PDF]: “Except for a patina of twenty-first century modernity, in the form of logic and language, philosophy is exactly the same now as it ever was; it has made no progress whatsoever. We philosophers wrestle with the exact same problems the Pre-Socratics wrestled with. Even more outrageous than this claim, though, is the blatant denial of its obvious truth by many practicing philosophers. The No-Progress view is explored and argued for here. Its denial is diagnosed as a form of anosognosia, a mental condition where the affected person denies there is any problem. The theories of two eminent philosophers supporting the No-Progress view are also examined. The final section offers an explanation for philosophy’s inability to solve any philosophical problem, ever. The paper closes with some reflections on philosophy’s future.”
- Does Philosophical Method Rest On a Mistake?: “Intuitive judgments elicited by thought-experiments, such as the Trolley Problem, are unlikely to be correct just as perceptual judgments elicited by perceptual illusions, such as the checkerboard illusion, are unlikely to be correct, since both perceptual illusions and intuition pumps are cognitively unusual scenarios. What do you make of this argument?”
- “A Different Way of Knowing” – The Uses of Irrationality… And It’s Limitations: “There’s a trope I’ve noticed in debates about atheism, about skepticism, about science. And the trope goes something like this: ‘Logic and reason isn’t everything. Not everything in this world is rational. Not everything that we know in the world is known through logic and reason. Sometimes we have to use our intuition, and listen to our hearts. There are different ways of knowing than just reason and evidence.’ The thing is? I actually think there’s a lot of truth to this. And I still think it’s a terrible argument to make against atheism, skepticism, and/or science. Let me explain.”
- Why I’m Giving 10% of My Income to Charity: “The lifetime earnings of a UK doctor are in the top 0.1% of the planet by wealth. By giving away 10% of my lifetime earnings I’ll buy around 120000 years of healthy life – or, on the saving babies metric, about 1200 lives. My life is not going to be worse for giving money away (science shows that although money doesn’t make you happy, giving it to charity does), and thousands of lives would be much better. Ethically, it’s a no brainer. Cambridge grads usually earn quite a lot, so everyone reading this can do something similarly awesome.”
- Inconsequential Intuition Test: “Chances are, you’ll feel a lot more sympathy for one or other of these two lines of attack. If the first, you exhibit symptoms of deontology, and should consult a health professional immediately for psychiatric evaluation. If the second, you have broadly consequentialist intuitions, and should not be allowed near sharp implements, babies, or political power.”
- How Do Atheists Find Meaning in Life?: “If you have ever claimed that your life would have no meaning if it weren’t for your faith in God, do you really believe your family and friends have no worth in their own right? Can you really not see the point in striving to protect and nurture your children, even if there is no eternal life? Really?”
- 6 Common Movie Arguments That Are Always Wrong: “Everybody loves sharing their opinions on the Internet, sometimes about important, world-changing things like politics, religion, human rights or cat declawing, and sometimes about unimportant things, like movies. And as everyone knows, the best part about sharing opinions is the chance to smugly tell other people that their opinions are wrong. Almost every heated movie discussion has someone pulling out one of these stupid, nonsensical lines.”
- Thoughts Out of School: “Several incidents in the past few weeks have sparked ideas for posts, but they’re not coming together as coherently as I’d like. Hence, a few thoughts related, if at all, by their occurrence outside my usual academic milieu.”
- Christopher Hitchens and the Protocol for Public Figure Deaths: “Etiquette-based prohibitions on speaking ill of the dead should apply to private individuals, not public figures[.]“
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