Free and Easy Conversing

by Aaron Novick and Liam Kofi Bright (All citations are to Ziporyn)
Liam: the Warhol museum really is the best in the city, thanks for inviting me! Tell you what, it’s such a lovely evening, why don’t we walk into town just for the stroll, rather than going home straight away?

Aaron: Definitely! I can’t stay out too late, though—I’m meeting with a student tomorrow to discuss the Zhuangzi, and I need to do some prep work tonight.

Liam: Don’t worry, we can just walk around the cultural district a bit and then I’ll get the bus home. Very cool that you have a student interested in the Zhuangzi, what will you be discussing?

Aaron: We’re going to be talking about the happiness of fish passage.

Liam: Nice! I love that passage. I love that Zhuangzi doesn’t always win his own dialogues.

Aaron: Oh, no, I don’t agree with that! It’s one of many stories where he comes out on top against his fussy friend Huizi. I have the text here—see for yourself:
Zhuangzi and Huizi were strolling along the bridge ov…

The Masque of Rona

by Liam Kofi Bright and Richard Bradley
In the face of a global pandemic whose scale and impact is for most of us entirely new, governments around the world are adopting policies that severely interfere with our daily lives. I know this has lots of people wondering about whether such decisions could really be justified. And even if we accept that this action is justified we might still be interested in how one can sensibly reason about taking action in the face of unprecedented problems. So for the sakes of introducing the topic to a wider audience, in today’s post I am joined by my colleague Richard Bradley, an expert on making rational decisions under conditions of uncertainty.
Let’s be very clear about this: we are not epidemiologists or medical or social scientists - so we are not going to offer any direct policy advice. What policy should be adopted depends a lot on empirical particulars, and the pertinent domains of expertise for this would be quite distinct from ours. Don’t read …

Truth Subjectivism and Giving Implausible Views their Due

Hi world! Some blog housekeeping beneath the Green Raven for anyone who cares. But for now I am just going to jump right in - a book I think is very good on the whole has done a thing I don't like, so I am going to complain about it. Chase Wrenn has an introductory book on Truth (link beneath the raven - I actually really like and recommend it!) that at one point discusses "relativism". This is defined (on pg.13) as the view that

"[W]hat makes a claim true for someone is that they believe it, and what makes it false for someone is that they disbelieve it." 
Now for reasons that will become apparent I don't think this is best described as "relativism" and I will refer to it instead by "subjectivism", but it does fall within a family of views I have discussed on the blog before which have something of the flavour. I think it is fair to say that it is an implausible view of truth, but I think this fact lets philosophers get away with attack…

Truth in the Culture War

One claim that I have seen crop up lately is the idea that somehow the present culture war turns upon what one thinks of the correspondence theory of truth. Now, I think the nature of truth is a deep and fascinating topic of philosophical inquiry, so I absolutely welcome more interest in it, and encourage people to delve deeper into what I think is an important topic. However, as is always the way, truth has been a casualty of war. In this case in particular the claims being made on behalf of truth's role in the culture war seem to me simply confused. So I am going to try and spell out what is being said, what I take to be wrong with this, and instead indicate some more productive lines of inquiry re philosophy in general, theory of truth in particular, and our present cultural moment.

(I think the whole discussion goes back to an argument Rachel McKinney had on twitter, so blame her! In all seriousness also thanks to her for doing much serious thinking on this and being willing t…

Just a Humble Philosopher

What are we trying to do when we teach philosophy? This question was broached recently at a conference I took part in on the role of formal methods in philosophy. It was maybe one of the most Very Extremely Online philosophy conferences the world has yet seen, being announced in advance on one blog, livetweeted by twodifferent philosophers, with questions from twitter being asked at a roundtable at the end - which is now going to be blogged about here! (Just want to include a note of thanks to Samuel Fletcher, not only for his role in organising the conference but also for offering helpful feedback on this very blog post!) This isn’t the last time I am going to blog about the conference, but right now I want to focus on a rather curious element of the conference and reflect on what it means for those who engage with students of philosophy.

The conference had us all thinking about what we hope formal methods can do for various people who interact with the philosophy world. But first an…