Thursday, July 31, 2008

Presuming Personhood

Watching WALL-E, the best thing at the cinema this summer (and a decent argument against slavish adherence to 700-year-old authority), I suddenly noticed how the humans in it (who resembled jelly-beans) were just cartoons.
......It had been easy to see the cartoon robots as robots to begin with, and as WALL-E clowned around he was touching, e.g. when watching a video of realistic humans, and imitating them. But when the cartoon captain saw the same video I suddenly noticed how he was less than the blob he was in the film (which at that point in the film, he was transcending) and was an ‘it,’ was just lines and colours; and so I became involuntarily aware that I was just watching cartoons (fortunately only fleetingly aware). That dissociation being quasi-trippy, I winded up recalling how we naturally presume that something is a fellow person, when we are young.
......When we grow up, we may think of that as naive, as wrong; but is it? It is not that we ever apply positive criteria for personhood; we rather learn when things fail to be people. Inanimate things fail by being unconscious, and some animals may fail by being amoral, for example. The problem is that if we could know enough about the mechanical or random sources of anyone’s behaviour, we would stop thinking of that one as a person (fortunately we would blink, and involuntarily represume personhood, whatever we knew).
......I’m left wondering if we should define ‘person’ so, what do you think? If atheism is true, we would (probably) have evolved some vague and fluid criteria for personhood, and if theism then the fundamental entity is (probably) a perfect person, and personhood an objectively indefinable primitive (for us).

Sunday, July 27, 2008

74th Philosophers' Carnival

......Most people would find the following obscure and boring. Fortunately most people won't be reading it :-) so, for all you philosophers out there, here it is (a day early):-
......Philosophers' Carnival


a) David asks Does Truth Exist? and simply shows its necessary existence, as Mr. Contrarian.

b) Peter presents Parsons's Mathematical Thought: Sec 13, Nominalism and second-order logic, part of an interesting (if one likes mathematics) review of Charles Parsons's 2008 "Mathematical Thought and Its Objects" at Logic Matters.

c) Justin presents Experimental Work on Machery et al.'s "Semantics, Cross-cultural Style" , which undermines the conclusions of that previous investigation into the intuitions behind Kripke's Gödel case (from "Naming and Necessity"), at My Mind is Made Up.

d) Gualtiero, in Ramsey Reconsiders Representation, reviews William Ramsey's 2007 "Representation Reconsidered" at Brains.

e) Richard's Open Access Action is a petition (nominated by Terrance) to open-up a Journal (Philosophical Studies), posted at Philosophy, et cetera.


(i) Ryan's Quantum Immortality shows us accessibly why Everett's interpretation of physics is hopeless. If you love that, you'll like chaospet.

(ii) Ed describes how Social spiders do better when hunting with relatives, which was posted at the accessible and interesting Not Exactly Rocket Science.

(iii) Manoj presents
Perception, Physics and the Role of Light in Philosophy, the blog version of an article published in "The Philosopher," and now at Unreal Blog.

(iv) Noumena's
Reconceptualizing Underrepresentation (nominated by Rachel) responds thoughtfully to Tierney's infamous article of July 15 NYT (on Title IX and Science), and is at The Headpiece for the Staff of Ra.

(v) Phillip presents some Problems with Transhumanism, e.g.
"that technologies are, as a rule, more problem-engendering than problem-solving." More such equals The Coriolis Effect.

......The Will

1. Alrenous presents Concept Cagematch: Zombies vs Consciousness. Maybe we act on such nonphysical information as would be unavailable to Zombies, but this post concentrates accessibly on what consciousness is not. Posted at Accepting Ignorance.

2. Avery presents Why-Questions and Motive-Explanations, being a start on a theory of action: "an action counts as intentional if and only if it possible to give a correct belief-desire or motive-explanation of that action." Posted at The Space of Reasons.

3. Jared contrasts Reasons vs. Conditions, in what is perhaps about how reasonable reasons can transcend reason, but which may certainly be found at Sportive Thoughts.

4. Larry (aka larryniven) presents Wordplay, discovering equivocation in one of Dennett's arguments against the incompatibility of free will and determinism. Posted (a while ago) at Rust Belt Philosophy.

5. Michael presents
Homosexuality, Choice and Dreaded Dark Overlords, being a short look at free will from the perspective of sexual orientation, posted at a Nadder!

......The Good

p = Matt presents Ethics of Manners. He argues that "the practice of good manners is unethical." Posted at A Mind for Madness.

q = Thom asks Should we elect all members of the House of Lords? They "can have the long-term interests of the country in mind, rather than newspaper headlines or general elections" so no, argues The Brooks Blog.

r = David presents "We study ethics to become good" Is this true anywhere today? But when would the good choose the freedom to be good, over their democratic responsibilities? The former (for USA) is preferred by The Picket Line.

s = Paul presents some Moral Commitment Problems, in which game theory seems to favour Kantian ethics, and which was posted at Uncommon Priors.

t = Ashok presents Towards a Nietzschean Understanding of Politics: Notes on "The Case of Wagner" (Part 1) "Socrates laughs, Jesus weeps." Posted at Rethink.

......And that's that...
......The 75th Carnival will follow in a fortnight at Wide Scope so if you are unimpressed with the above (or even if not)
you should submit something to that. And why not host one yourself? That way you can have everything how you like it (-:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sussuration Song

.......Will shining shingle sing of God?

.............Dark incarnate hearts
pump hard, as rooks heave at dusk,
.............wing-beats glistening.

.......Clouds that shroud heaven
.......hang over shadowless dusk,
..............starkly reddening.

..............Robin’s orange bust
..............bobs a little rustily a sudden gust.

Robin Redbreast drops dead, poor thing, for
it’s night, and the slimy shingle stinks of cod.
..............“In your sight all is light
..............for ignitable spite,
for recursive respites see your fighters rehearse,

as your terse universe irreversibly worsens,,

.............Rudely tulips bloom,
petals plumped round jumbling genes,
bumped by bumbling bees.
Two twirling butterflies
climb a double helix. I’m a double helix
.......whose whirling wonder dies. Sparks
...............swirling upwards flash
.......into ash-flakes (“Your words dye into
) as wounding winds use weaving waves bury bones in gruesome graves:
................Robin’s flotsam grotto.

................To deliberate is to delete options.
........................On other shores the sea snores the waves break, saying

......................................................“Je... suis, Je... suis,,
Ruddy flesh haloed
but pebble-strewn puddle owns
................muddy cherry stones.

........(there will be cherry blossom)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Call for Posts: PC74

Posts relating to philosophy are wanted for the 74th Philosophers' Carnival, which will be here. Submit anything by anyone, if it strikes you as interesting and accessible. If you're blogging philosophically, sign up to Host a carnival, and if not then start a philosophy Blog.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Aberdeen, the hand

Many thanks to all the nice people who made the Joint Sessions so very pleasant (cf. Jonny's review). My talk went well enough (e.g. I didn't faint), although the talks I sat through were more accessible and interesting, as were all the plenary speakers. The best bit was Kit Fine likening David Lewis to Thales (which I sympathise with). Lewis said that to question set theory would be silly, yet his basic supposition was that there are no Laws of Nature (which is impossible, whereas set-theoretical sciences are just like Ptolomaic astronomy).

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Omniscience and the Odyssey Theodicy

Improvement upon my response to Mawson's "Divine Eternity" is now here.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Said the straight man to the late man
Where have you been
I've been here and I've been there
And I've been in between.

I talk to the wind
My words are all carried away
I talk to the wind
The wind does not hear
The wind cannot hear.

That's how Peter Sinfield's "I Talk To The Wind" started, in 1969