January 08, 2007

The Philosophers' Carnival

Welcome to the Philosophers' Carnival. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year- both have passed since Thom Brook's wonderful Carnival passed through the blogosphere. Well here I am with Carnival number 41 and there are plenty of entries which pass muster as interesting and fun contributions to philosophy on the web, plenty that are here and I am sure plenty that I've missed.

So away we go- part of the purpose of philosophy as a subject is to help us with all sorts of teasing moral problems that we confront throughout our everyday lives. Dissenter discusses here a particularly important one- how can I as an atheist celebrate Christmas- thankfully he thinks I can. Well now I'm reassured that I can eat Turkey with the best of them, time to contemplate some other moral problems. Anyone got any idea what you do when someone who supports paedophilia emails you, that's a dilemma daylight atheism faced when a pro-paedophilia activist who said he was a teacher emailed him, what do you think should he have reported the guy to the FBI just in case. The big ethical issue of the moment concerns Ashley X, the child whose parents have decided to curtail her growth into an adult medically, Ellee Seymour provides the facts of the case and Anniemiz discusses the philosophical implications of the situation.

Less topically but no less importantly philosophical blogs have been dealing with those great perennials of politics and ethics which seem to call for applied philosophy to help deal with them. The Philosopher's Playground takes time out from swings and slides, to consider why it is we won't speak ill of the dead. The Brooks Blog is also interested in the guilty, but he's interested in whether our punishment of them has an expressivist function. Knowability is preoccupied with a different question, if George Bush presents an aide's work as his own in a newspaper, is the President a plagiarist. Unsurprisingly my opinions on everything has an opinion on whether we should consider anarchism seriously. Jonathon Derbyshire on the other hand soberly analyses a book I want to get into Ronald Dworkin's latest offering on America, democracy and democratic argument.

Ah arguing. Dworkin is of course a past master at it. Tim Van Gelder wants more of it, he looks to the way that Euclid convinced Hobbes of the rationality of his system and asks could we all be a bit clearer. Sophist Pundit has high hopes that blogging could provide just that free market of ideas which will force us all to be interesting and clear (so many of the posts on this carnival could be cited in evidence to support him too). Hell's handmaiden though isn't so happy about the internet: she is unhappy at the way that language can distort the way that we argue. The Dirty Mechanism reminds us both that our feelings even about the truth are constantly changing and that our pasts change the way that we perceive our present states.

Sounds like a good time to look back a bit and see what lies in the past, if its so influential. If that's what you are into, then go geeks go to golublog to download a philosopher's translation of a historian- that's right its the famous translation of Thucydides by Thomas Hobbes and its on the internet, I'm there already. For those of you who like shorter primary sources in your philosophical reading or are just going to parties and not reading Hobbes, then this excerpt describing Immanuel Kant should give you a bit of philosophical atmosphere to take away with you. From Primary to Secondary, Tanasije Gjorgoski has written a long comment analysing Hegel's idea of how the world changes. I've been thinking about Rousseau over the last month and in particular his reveries and solitude. Thankfully though I have not been musing in solitude, James Higham read my post and put some of my thoughts in context in his analytical look at Rousseau.

I know what you are thinking- take away these powdered wigs, these unprofessional men of letters, let me bite into some real philosophers- some twentieth century thinkers. Well this carnival has something for everyone. You could start with that quintessencial Cambridge man, G.E. Moore, Kenny Pearce has got all interested in Moore's refutation of Bishop Berkeley's idealism. Moore was a colleague of Bertrand Russell and Wittgenstein, who both dealt with logic. Its another philosopher of logic and language that Dirk Keaton is interested in: over at what's it like to blog, he is trying to work out the distinctions between Kim and Quine's approaches to naturalised epistemology. Damn those Anglo Saxons, time for this carnival to get continental. After all who couldn't when you read such an erudite post by Otto Weininger about Deleuze, Hume and subjectivity. If you are really after the continental then you need some bracing German philosophy and Ashok is willing to provide with this learned post on Heidegger.

I can see I'm provoking nervous jitters in the audience here- you see being a historian I've never got this up-to-date contemporary thing about philosophy. There is some brilliant stuff being done out there though and this is only a selection- take for example at the Space of Reasons, Avery Archer's argument about un-discriminating reliabilism- its only part one but part two is here. If that sounds too complicated then I suggest you settle back into an easy chair and contemplate the papers at the American Philosophical Association conference, Knowability supplies some summaries. Aidan at the boundaries of language was also there and wants to discuss Adam Elga's paper on Reflection and disagreement. Richard Chappell, this carnival's onlie begetter, is concerned though with a more mainstream issue what's an intuition and does what we say refer to the real world or to truths that any logical being would have to recognise. All very highminded, but philosophers, as the Splintered Mind shows, can say some rather interesting things about things just under our nose- or rather our nose itself- he considers that stinking subject- the philosophy of smell. Indeed the Neurophilosopher goes right up the nostril so to speak, he wants to know whether augmented cognition is science fiction or science fact.

We all face questions about language and ideas at some point in our lives. The one question though that everyone appears fascinated by at the moment is religion. Parablemania has come to some of these key issues, he is particularly interested in how omniscience and freedom might coexist and whether they can. The subject of God has been ping ponging back and forth between some bloggers I know of, Alex at In search of High Places was unsure about how literature could work in a world without God, Ian at Imagined Community argued that God was some kind of a metaphor- I've missed lots of the conversation but its an interesting exchange. Lawrence Thomas though isn't so much worried about whether you can't have literature without God, he is concerned about whether what we know of human beings and the way that they treat children is consistant in any way with a benign God. Reopening the problem of evil might look like a daring move, but our philosophers are a daring bunch. Francois Trembley wants to argue that there is an incredible condescension in suggesting that human's can't cope without a God or state to police them with. Pat goes even further, suggesting that God might be bad for any modern society in which he has a number of followers.

Having said that, two of our bloggers are moving in from the opposite side. Bryan at Movement of Existance suggests that we can't have a purely physical account of reality. Martin Walker attacks from another angle- he wants to destroy the concept of moral relativism itself.

How high minded of us all? And yet we must remember that even the most high minded of us need to eat, even Diogenes needed his barrel. If you are in this condition- a penniless philosopher living in a barrel and asking emperors to move out of the sun, then maybe you ought to read this account of what it takes to get a job in philosophy.

One sad notice needs to be made at this carnival. And that is the death of Robert C. Solomon, philosophers have lives outside of philosophy, Solomon sounds like a truly impressive person and a good man. Read this touching and moving tribute to him from a former student.

I don't want to finish off though on a dark note, so let's remember that philosophy is not merely about obituaries or about serious scholarship, its also fun. If you are in any doubt- go get yourself over to the Splintered Mind who spends his time wondering- why isn't Kant translated into Klingon at Harvard. If that doesn't grab you, then how's learning logic through the eyes of a five year old suit your taste?

It only remains for me to close this issue of the Philosopher's Carnival- I hope you have found something to stimulate your senses, if you want to submit something to the next carnival then the submission form is here and if you want to host it on your blog then I'm sure Richard would be glad to hear from you (the carnival homepage is here and gives instructions for what to do if you are interested and a list of links to previous carnivals)- so long and let's hope by the next carnival somebody has translated Kant into Klingon!

An interesting new Philosophy wiki has just come to my attention too


Tanasije Gjorgoski said...

Thanks for the wonderful carnival!

Ellee said...

I feel I have been elevated in blogosphere now I am included in your Philosopher' Carnival, what a distinct honour to add to my credentials. There are many links here that I must follow through, this must have taken you ages, it's very impressive.

ashok said...

Thanks for writing that post! It must have been a lot of work.

Sorry for being quiet for so long, things are topsy turvy in my life. Just trying to get things back on track after a failed relationship, and writing is therapeutic in that regard.

Feel free to comment on posts, I'm trying to write and write and write some more.

Gracchi said...

Ashok I too have been quiet on your blog so I was glad to get your submission for this. Tanasije its been brilliant doing it- found a whole lot of other blogs I like and msut visit regularly. Ellee I'm glad you like it!

The neurophilosopher said...

Nice work. And thanks to whoever submitted my post. I've been inundated with hits - 3 in 2 days!

Gracchi said...

Thanks Neurophilosopher- its a good blog you've got over there.


You have really done an excellent job putting together this carnival! There are lots of interesting links here, and your succinct descriptions provide just enough information for me to decide which blogs to visit first. Thanks for doing this.

Jonathan Derbyshire said...

Thanks for the link.

annie said...

Thanks for including my post. And thanks to whoever submitted it!

Gracchi said...

Thanks guys- glad you came and had a look- there is some good work here.

james higham said...

Hmmmm. Accolades for the amount of work you did - a fantastic effort. As for the views expressed - sigh. The number of people who resolutely ignore the bleedin obvious.

Gracchi said...

Ah well James such is life. But yes there is a lot of good stuff on it.

james higham said...

Please, sir, take yourself across to peruse my considered response to said carnival.