Re: Couldn't Have Happened To A Bigger Asshole

1

Huh, had not realized he'd ever engaged with this place, he really is a self-obsessed little toad. Head must be exploding trying to keep up with the constant google alerts these days.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 7:06 AM
horizontal rule
2

I can see the value and importance of a ranking system, but why would it be tied so closely to a single individual? Especially one who's such a fucking asshole?


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 8:00 AM
horizontal rule
3

I thought unfogged people kind of liked him. His sockpuppeting is hilarious. Straightup just telling people how great he is.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 8:11 AM
horizontal rule
4

3.last to 3.first.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 8:39 AM
horizontal rule
5

"3.last to 3.first."

Ha


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 9:01 AM
horizontal rule
6

You guys have it all wrong. Leiter is one of the leading scholars on earth and possibly the planet.

Man, those were the days. We hated him before it was cool.


Posted by: Manny FL Kant | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 9:23 AM
horizontal rule
7

I liked Leiter's blogging a lot in the early days of "warblogging" when it was de rigeur to treat ridiculous ideas from libertarians and Straussians with lame gestures of even-handed respect. Leiter was great at calling bullshit on that. IIRC the original spat between him and this blog came from his attack on Straussians, and he was clearly substantively right. On the other hand, he is also obviously an extremely, insanely obsessed with status-policing, a bully and a dick. He's the kind of acerbic guy who would be great shouting from the margins, but is terrible when invested in power, particularly power in the status obsessed world of academia.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 9:35 AM
horizontal rule
8

Years ago I remember thinking that, with his obsession with lists and rankings, Leiter reminded me a bit of the character in High Fidelity who related to the world primarily through making "top 5" lists.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 9:42 AM
horizontal rule
9

8: it would be great if the PGR were bought by Buzzfeed.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 9:46 AM
horizontal rule
10

From the second link:

Over the last 48 hours, Leiter has been publicly exposed as (and widely chastised for) being at best intemperate and uncivil, at worst bullying and threatening.

Over the last 48 hours? I care almost not at all about academic philosophy, and I've known he's an uncivil bully for most of the last decade. Anyone who spends any time at all in the academic blogosphere surely knows that.

I would have guessed that Leiter mattered in blogging circles but not in academic ones: that he was a very marginal figure in philosophy. Is that not true?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 9:49 AM
horizontal rule
11

Is that not true?

As founder and editor of the PGR, he has a very high profile.

his attack on Straussians, and he was clearly substantively right

I shouldn't be baited, but...he was?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 9:54 AM
horizontal rule
12

Leiter is a pretty big deal in analytic Nietzschean circles, and I suspect also legal philosophy (though I'm basically talking out of my ass there); he also edits a series for … Routledge, maybe? But I believe his prominence in the field generally is basically down to the PGR.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:05 AM
horizontal rule
13

As founder and editor of the PGR, he has a very high profile.

I guess that's the part that mystifies me. That's just a ranking of schools, right? If he's not known for anything other than ranking schools, why would anyone have cared about his rankings in the first place?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:05 AM
horizontal rule
14

13 before seeing 12, which partially answers it, but only partly.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:06 AM
horizontal rule
15

I bet Leiter comes through all of this pretty handily, but I do relish the mental video of him needing an entire day to go down the list of signatories and insult them, one by one, by school rank and graduate program. "It's no surprise to see you on this list, coming from a program only ranked 32nd! As for you, well, NYU should be ashamed to have you on its faculty! And you! And Princeton should be ashamed of you although I suppose you did only graduate from Penn! Et tu, Brute? Et tu, Brute? Et tu, Brute? Et tu, Bru... hey, that's kind of a tongue-twister."


Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:07 AM
horizontal rule
16

I don't know much about the history of the PGR but insofar as it was a public ranking aimed at grad students (which is, theoretically, still its audience) meant to replace private advice from individual faculty members to individual students, one can imagine it catching on in the early days of the Web even if it was just one dude's list. Clearly, it has since become something significantly larger than just one dude's list; the advisory board is full of heavy hitters.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:08 AM
horizontal rule
17

Academics are obsessed with things that keep track of which faculty members are moving from where to where. I swear that part of his website is even more popular than the "rankings".


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:11 AM
horizontal rule
18

9: So what you're saying is, Leiter was ahead of his time in his use of listicles?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:12 AM
horizontal rule
19

the original spat between him and this blog came from his attack on Straussians, and he was clearly substantively right.

Link?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:14 AM
horizontal rule
20

I guess that's the part that mystifies me. That's just a ranking of schools, right? If he's not known for anything other than ranking schools, why would anyone have cared about his rankings in the first place?

He leveraged the visibility from the report (and the political bloc it generated) into making a blog that became a clearinghouse for information about the profession, and he leveraged that to relationships with University presses (OUP, Routledge) producing lines on new scholarship in the profession, many of which he is a senior editor for.


Posted by: CB | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:19 AM
horizontal rule
21

13: his rankings take the form of a broad survey of people in the discipline - it's not just his personal opinions (a fact somewhat avoided by a lot of the critics of those rankings). The questions are, roughly, which departments (from list of members) are really good in areas x, y, etc.

A lot of the people in the generally anti-Leiter coalition are either (1) members of a specific (and marginal) subgroup in philosophy who feel like they're being treated poorly* or, a smaller group, (2) professors at schools that were very highly esteemed before the rankings became well known at which point people started to think that actually they were overrated schools coasting on their reputations (cough-Harvard-cough).

It doesn't help that Leiter reacts to being poked about as well as a skinless man high on methamphetamines. But a lot of the bullying behavior really is just him blustering and yelling as a result of some fairly passive-aggressive provocation. E.g., one of the people involved was subjected to Leiter's (private until they published it) response to a pretty "bad academic behavior that of course I will try my best to refrain from for reasons of professionalism" blog posting following very quickly after a previous go around. And in those cases he's as often in the right as the wrong, just very badly in the right, such as the "Climate for Women" rankings published by one of the organizations of people in (1) above. (It was only a real ranking if by "Climate for Women" you mean "Schools who have a lot of faculty doing a very specific kind of feminist philosophy, regardless of any sexual harassment scandals on their part or well respected efforts to mentor women specifically on the part of schools that don't do that at all". Leiter was pretty furious about it, but only partially because it was presented as a fairer, more inclusive ranking of schools than the PGR.)

*(A substantial reason for this is that they've been pushing the Continental vs Analytic divide for a long time and it really stings when someone asks historians of philosophy to rank departments in how good they are for history of philosophy and very few of the schools where they work show up, since that was supposedly where the important difference between the two areas was.)


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:27 AM
horizontal rule
22

19: Must've been this, I think. Featuring an obnoxious commenter who just happened to stumble upon it while "surfing the web"!


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:35 AM
horizontal rule
23

(a fact somewhat avoided by a lot of the critics of those rankings)

?? Who?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:39 AM
horizontal rule
24

Idly browsing the first few links -- and not really remembering much detail of Leiter's past bad behavior -- I was oscillating between "eh, they all probably deserve each other", "this sucks for the people I'm friendly with who are in the middle of it for reasons that are fairly noble" and "there seems to be a real divide between people who don't quite see the big deal with sockpuppeting and people who think it is the goddamned worst", but then I got to a link where Leiter wrote a post about how he wasn't happy with the person in charge of that stupid philosophy blog at the NYT and immediately pivoted to proposing a letter writing campaign -- complete with suggested language for correspondents -- to get the guy fired. Who does that?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:41 AM
horizontal rule
25

Leiter's take on what "continental" means is persistently baffling to me; it often seems, in fact, as if to many in predominantly analytic departments "continental" figures have to undergo an aging process before they can be engaged with—nothing, or very little, prior to the 1960s, thanks much.

But I should refrain from commenting in this vein too much lest I be buttonholed again should I ever attend another APA.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:41 AM
horizontal rule
26

I'm not sure I've ever seen a take on what "continental" means that wasn't baffling, personally. Analytic is a very, very little bit better since there was at least some coherent (and no longer around) research project under that name. But now it just gets used generically for most mainstream anglo-analytic philosophy, including a bunch of German idealists in the 1800s. And at that point it seems basically meaningless as well.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:51 AM
horizontal rule
27

22: from that thread - quote from unf on Strauss

He was a U of C man, so he must not be all bad, of course.

Halford wins.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:53 AM
horizontal rule
28

Citation networks maybe; I doubt there's much more coherence to either term anymore. It wasn't just who Leiter included (himself, e.g., on the grounds that he writes about Nietzsche, even though no one calls someone who writes on the Stoics a Hellenistic philosopher*) but also those whom he excluded, like, say, people at Stony Brook, whom I would have thought had a much better prima facie claim to the title. (They get to be called "*party-line* continentals", where "party-line" is apparently intended to be alienans.)

* though we do call people who write on Aristotle ancient philosophers!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:57 AM
horizontal rule
29

VTSOOBC I would like to thank rfts for reminding me of "privative" as the more common, and more English, term for what I used "alienans" for in comment 28 supra.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:58 AM
horizontal rule
30

That makes the 'party-line continentals' the alienandum, right?


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 11:09 AM
horizontal rule
31

Not directly on point, and I don't know anything near enough to engage with it, but this interview with an analytic philosopher who has concluded that essentially all analytic (or anglo-American) philosophy is pointless certainly confirms my prejudice that philosophy departments are largely full of extremely smart argumentative dicks wasting their time.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 11:15 AM
horizontal rule
32

extremely smart argumentative dicks wasting their time

New mouseover text!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 11:16 AM
horizontal rule
33

31: … such as Peter Unger, one pointedly does not hasten to add.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 11:18 AM
horizontal rule
34

Amending one sentence from the link in 31: Tim Maudlin's already done a similar sort of thing within himself, so that most of the time when he's doing philosophy, he's also doing theoretical physics very, very badly.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 11:23 AM
horizontal rule
35

24: the same guy who reads a public statement from some woman promising to not be a raging asshole and asking other people sign on to the same principle, interprets this as an obvious personal attack (!), then sends a string of hostile emails including a threat to sue the person for libel (!), over her claim that he was unprofessional (!), and says that she started it (!).

You don't need knowledge of the bigger picture to see that the guy deserves to be trolled relentlessly, and whoever asked whether it was technically correct to call him a philosopher since he doesn't appear on the list of faculty of the Philosophy Department at U of C was off to great start in that regard.


Posted by: jake | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 11:23 AM
horizontal rule
36

The move jake mentions is particularly genius because you know that in a different context Leiter would be all over that departmental affiliation shit.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 11:25 AM
horizontal rule
37

The author in 31 comes off as pretty ridiculous when he talks about his own future role in "straightening out" experimental psychology.

Anyhow, speaking as somebody go once mounted a spirited and reasonably tendentious attack on analytic philosophy on this very blog (in response to a newly arrived commenter who at the very least had done a hell of a lot more of the reading than I have) it seems like "meh, there's no point to it" is almost never the right response to serious intellectual work, deep though it seems like some analytic philosophers are capable of voyaging into their own assholes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 11:25 AM
horizontal rule
38

35 seems reasonable at all points. When I wrote 24 I also hadn't read the original Jenkins post, which describes a pretty good way to be, really, and if it was inspired by Leiter, was only so-inspired because he was the raging down-kicking asshole readiest to mind.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 11:28 AM
horizontal rule
39

"meh, there's no point to it" is almost never the right response to serious intellectual work

The beauty of this principle stems from the fact that everyone has their own pet exception. That and the huge arguments that tend to follow from the fact that different people's exceptions are rarely the same.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 11:30 AM
horizontal rule
40

38: well, right. And really I should only direct that exhortation towards myself, since I'm at least as bad about it as anybody and trying to do better.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 11:31 AM
horizontal rule
41

When the history of trollish dickery is written, Peter Unger will get a lot of credit for significant advances in the field. My own favorite is his book "give to the poor, oh wait just kidding" but there are so many to choose from.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 11:33 AM
horizontal rule
42

I've always liked "knowledge isn't what people are talking about when they talk about knowing stuff in their daily lives and it isn't what people care about when they worry about whether they know something in their daily lives and as a result it isn't what motivated the philosophy discussions about what knowledge is actually is it's something different that doesn't exist."


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 11:46 AM
horizontal rule
43

I have since accepted that analytic philosophy plays a positive role in AI, IT, neuroscience, etc. Since logic and philosophy of mind are two of the few areas of traditional philosophy honored by analytic philosophy, this isn't terribly surprising. So what I've been objecting to is the narrow definition of the discipline which turns it into a feeder discipline for these sciences.

I still don't think that analytical philosophy does more good than harm WRT the understanding of history, politics, ethics, or social theory.

I think that analytic philosophy can be defined by descent from Frege and the interpretation of earlier philosophy in Fregian terms. The other philosophical category is not "continental philosophy" but "everything else".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 11:54 AM
horizontal rule
44

I have since accepted that analytic philosophy plays a positive role in AI, IT, neuroscience, etc.

Do people in AI, IT, or neuroscience agree with that?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:15 PM
horizontal rule
45

My very advisor is apparently well known. Cited in the first paragraph here, for instance.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:19 PM
horizontal rule
46

I believe that various temporal and temporal epistemic logics are used in various IT-ish applications.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:19 PM
horizontal rule
47

46 is correct. More generally, Per Martin-Löf is well-regarded in the parts of CS, IT, and math that are logicish.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:27 PM
horizontal rule
48

44: I think people in theoretical computer science maybe have some relative consensus as to the worth of (analytic) philosophical concepts? AI... isn't really a field anymore, I dunno. Classical AI and analytic philosophy certainly had a lot to talk to each other about. Neuroscience I am not sure there's anything like consensus, although there are certainly a number of people who have trained in both analytic philosophy and neuroscience who are doing (in many cases) reasonably well-respected work.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:33 PM
horizontal rule
49

I would be interested in hearing essear's take on what Sean Carroll says here.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:40 PM
horizontal rule
50

44. Not being well-read in philosophy, I'm not sure if semantic reasoning and ontological analysis fit in, but they are fairly popular ways of representing knowledge, and they indirectly underpin a lot of modern noSQL databases (sometimes very indirectly).

The CS person I know who is most into that is a big Wittgenstein fan, assuming that is a meaningful correlation.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:42 PM
horizontal rule
51

Classical AI and analytic philosophy certainly had a lot to talk to each other about.
And how did that go?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:42 PM
horizontal rule
52

The CS person I know who is most into that is a big Wittgenstein fan, assuming that is a meaningful correlation.

We don't know each other that well, Dave.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:44 PM
horizontal rule
53

Brian Leiter sockpuppeted Unfogged? how did I miss this?


Posted by: Brad DeLong | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:44 PM
horizontal rule
54

Brian Leiter sockpuppeted Unfogged? how did I miss this?


Posted by: Brad DeLong | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:44 PM
horizontal rule
55

It was a while ago.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:46 PM
horizontal rule
56

And we didn't say anything at the time. Politeness, mortal terror, etc.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:48 PM
horizontal rule
57

49: mostly I just disagree with "there are some physics questions where philosophical input actually is useful." I mean, it may be true for some fuzzy enough sense of "philosophical input", but I'm not aware of anytime since physics developed into its own separate field when philosophers contributed anything useful.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:48 PM
horizontal rule
58

Almost ten years!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:48 PM
horizontal rule
59

57: Aaronson claims it was helpful for quantum computation.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:50 PM
horizontal rule
60

In retrospect, I think Leiter played me a little bit with his "let's be grown-ups" (not a quote) emails, which got me to agree to bury the hatchet. He's clearly just malign, and I could have been mocking him this whole past decade.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:50 PM
horizontal rule
61

41: In Living High and Letting Die (the book you're talking about), Unger argues that it is morally monstrous for people with extra money not to give all they can to save the lives of those dying from easily preventable diseases. There is no "just kidding" qualification. There is a final chapter in which he discusses contexts in which it may be correct to say that failing to save those lives is not monstrous. But he concludes that, at best, we are like slaveholders in a society in which slaveholding is the norm -- better than slaveholders in a society in which it is not, but still extremely bad.

Unger has given lots of his money to Unicef and Oxfam.


Posted by: Mr. F | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:53 PM
horizontal rule
62

We don't know each other that well, Dave.

But can anyone truly know another person? What is it to "know" anyway?


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:54 PM
horizontal rule
63

59: maybe? That's far enough outside my wheelhouse I may not know the details.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:54 PM
horizontal rule
64

57, if you substitute "neuroscience" for "physics", is certainly something I've heard neuroscientists say.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:55 PM
horizontal rule
65

extra money

Ah, that.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:56 PM
horizontal rule
66

The existence of 'cognitive science' as a thing seems like evidence of the usefulness of philosophy.

57 seems like a trap to me. If the contribution is a philosophic one (falsifiability; models; thebasicexistenceofformallogicandeverythingthatfollowsfromitahem) then it's not really a contribution to physics per se. On the other hand if it's actually some physics that was done by a philosopher it's a contribution but not from philosophy itself (just part of physics).


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 12:59 PM
horizontal rule
67

"In retrospect, I think Leiter played me a little bit with his 'let's be grown-ups' (not a quote) emails, which got me to agree to bury the hatchet. He's clearly just malign, and I could have been mocking him this whole past decade."

Well, then, please publish the emails so we can all laugh! Or at least email me a copy! U owe me after outing me as the Internet's #1 Hedgehog Impersonator...


Posted by: Brad DeLong | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:01 PM
horizontal rule
68

The existence of 'cognitive science' as a thing seems like evidence of the usefulness of philosophy.

The people who came up with the field were (are) certainly convinced of that. But they also mostly were not (are not) neuroscientists.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:01 PM
horizontal rule
69

Shrug. If you want philosophy to take credit for logic or the concept of a model go ahead, but those ideas are hundreds of years old.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:02 PM
horizontal rule
70

Anyhow, we were talking about analytic philosophy per se. If we broaden things to include all philosophical thought ever, indeed, how useful it has been.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:03 PM
horizontal rule
71

I'm not aware of anytime since physics developed into its own separate field when philosophers contributed anything useful.
Ernst Mach and General Relativity?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:03 PM
horizontal rule
72

|| Niall "Keynes Was a Fag" Ferguson really is a piece of work. |>


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:05 PM
horizontal rule
73

71: to this day I have no clue what the fuck Mach's principle means or why I should care. Maybe it indirectly inspired Einstein somehow but I'm sure we would still have GR without it.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:06 PM
horizontal rule
74

68 belatedly cont'd: just to give an example of the differentiation I'm making, the neuroscientist(s) I'm thinking of would likely consider themselves much, much more indebted to Brodmann, say, than Fodor, say, and (I suspect) would not have an enormous amount of patience for nativist/empiricist-type debates that were not strongly grounded in very low-level ctyoarchitectonic and/or genetic findings.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:08 PM
horizontal rule
75

What is it to "know" anyway?

IY"K"WIMAITYD


Posted by: OPINIONATED BIBLE | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:09 PM
horizontal rule
76

Re: "|| Niall "Keynes Was a Fag" Ferguson really is a piece of work. |>"

Where did that come from?

U do understand that NF is not himself, personally, prejudiced against the F---ish. & that Andrew Sullivan is, like, his BFF? It's just that he used "Keynes Was a Fag" as an applause line in speeches to rich right-wing people who paid him money... until all of a sudden it wasn't an applause line anymore?


Posted by: Brad DeLong | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:11 PM
horizontal rule
77

It's hard to see who else would take credit for logic than philosophers, what with it being one of the central parts of the discipline and all. And that's especially easy when talking about the sort of formal logic we use, because that can go straight to analytic philosophy. (I mean, what did you think Russell/Whitehead were up to?) And the fact that philosophy of science tends to structure the way scientists conceive of science and do it isn't too strange, given that that's basically what 'philosophy of science' means.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:11 PM
horizontal rule
78

"71: to this day I have no clue what the fuck Mach's principle means or why I should care. "

If I stand still and watch the stars stand still, I don't get dizzy...

If I spin myself around once a second, I do get dizzy...

But would I get dizzy if I stood still but the stars whirled around me once a second? Mach's Principle says yes...

Would I get dizzy if I whirled around once a second but the stars also whirled around me in the same direction once a second? Mach's Principle says no...


Posted by: Brad DeLong | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:13 PM
horizontal rule
79

BDL=TOS?


Posted by: OPINIONATED HORSE NERD | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:15 PM
horizontal rule
80

61 doesn't quite square with my recollection of LHLD. Yes, Unger goes on for a while about the content of our obligations, but the contextualist chapter seemed to me at the time to, if it were right, render true many actual-world utterances of the form "I am not obligated to do such-and-such to help the destitute."


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:19 PM
horizontal rule
81

Oh my god, eternal recurrence is real. Where is the boundary between research in the foundations of math and philosophy?

Was Peano really just a mathematician, or did anything he did also have philosophical implications? Hardy said something about usefulness and math. What good have quasicrystals or cohomology ever done anybody?

Just because the philosophers embedded in US universities are often unpleasant right now is no reason for such a sweeping dismissal.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:20 PM
horizontal rule
82

Which sweeping dismissal?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:22 PM
horizontal rule
83

57, maybe?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:23 PM
horizontal rule
84

78.last: Did Mach have an inner ear problem?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:25 PM
horizontal rule
85

81: I think you're being overly cautious with "in US universities" and "right now"...


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:28 PM
horizontal rule
86

82. The ones in 70 and 49. David Bohm and John von Neumann, philosophically insignificant?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:28 PM
horizontal rule
87

81: Rober/t Ha/rper has tried to argue--*probably* jokingly--via HoTT and what have you that you can reduce logic to computation in a meaningful way so in fact all of logic and math are kinds of computer science.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:28 PM
horizontal rule
88

80: Nope. From the contextualist chapter: "While there may be some sense, or way, in which our ordinary moral judgments accord better with morality than do my Liberationist assessments, in the most important sense, and ways, it's the reverse that's true" (italics in the original; the "ordinary moral judgments" in question are such as that it's OK not to give all you can to Unicef).


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:31 PM
horizontal rule
89

85. Right, I'm the one who can't stand Aristotle. No reason to make judgements based on a few bad apples, though.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:32 PM
horizontal rule
90

86: 70 was clarifying previous discussion, as opposed to making any kind of assertion about the role of -- or lack of role of -- analytic philosophy in any other field of study. The point of that comment was that of course philosophy as such has been useful to the practice of science in general. That's not what we were talking about.


49 is a link to Sean Carroll, which I haven't read, and have no need to defend.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:32 PM
horizontal rule
91

89: We're talking about a discipline founded by a guy who was straight up executed for being annoying....


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:34 PM
horizontal rule
92

90.last: ... so I guess maybe it was a sweeping dismissal? That could have led to my confusion.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:34 PM
horizontal rule
93

76 - I'm not sure how Ferguson's sneering references to Keynes' sexuality are rendered more palatable by the fact that he was pandering. Nonetheless, his cheap asides about Keynes being a nihilist because of whom he liked to fuck are now my primary association with the man, although perhaps in the future I will associate him more with the belief that if there in inflation at any time in the future he was correct to predict inflation in 2010.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:35 PM
horizontal rule
94

Whoops, for 49 above, please read 57.

90 makes it sound like a lot of context or thread reading or something is necessary to participate helpfully. Food for thought there.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:37 PM
horizontal rule
95

The link in 49, on reading, was not a sweeping dismissal. So I'm still looking!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:37 PM
horizontal rule
96

Okay, 57 is reasonably sweeping as far as that goes. Thanks for clarifying, eventually!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:38 PM
horizontal rule
97

93: I don't think 76 was serious.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:41 PM
horizontal rule
98

87: I really doubt he is joking.

There's a video on youtube of clips of a talk he gave wherein (this is just what the clips concern) he goes on about "computational trinitarianism" and while the label is jokey it's pretty clear he thinks there's a very deep connection between mathematics, logic, and computation, and the greatest of these is computation.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:41 PM
horizontal rule
99

It's possible I have misremembered the members of the trinity.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:42 PM
horizontal rule
100

32
New mouseover text!

Should be "self-proclaimed extremely smart argumentative dicks wasting their time."

Also, I want to start keeping a log of notable damns with faint praise, because 76 will go in it.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:43 PM
horizontal rule
101

Some quotes from H4rper. The video in question.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:45 PM
horizontal rule
102

97: Nonetheless, it's an ugly word and I shouldn't have used it even if I think I'm accurately conveying the tone of Ferguson's argument, so apologies.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:45 PM
horizontal rule
103

In the future he will be Niall "Keynes Was a Fancy Lad" Ferguson to me.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:46 PM
horizontal rule
104

"Math itself is based on computer science", he says. "Computer science is the queen of sciences, if you ask me."


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:53 PM
horizontal rule
105

72 is hilarious. "This thing we said didn't happen. But maybe it did. In some way. You can't prove it didn't happen."


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:55 PM
horizontal rule
106

(insert a "would happen" between "said" and "didn't" above, plz.)


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 1:56 PM
horizontal rule
107

79 is obviously nonsense, but now we've seen DeLong and Emerson in the same thread, so scratch that theory.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 2:05 PM
horizontal rule
108

104: I'll watch the video once I'm not at work, but I'm very biased against that proposition. If there are three things that are all mutually derivable from each other, declaring one "the queen of sciences" is asinine.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 2:06 PM
horizontal rule
109

Well, I think he thinks they aren't all mutually derivable; he claims that math is a corner of computer science. But I dunno. It's kind of offhand. This is in the last minute of the video.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 2:09 PM
horizontal rule
110

The distinction between math and (much of) computer science is pretty artificial. I have no objection to computer scientists saying that math is essentially computer science, so long as I can say that computer science is essentially math.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 2:16 PM
horizontal rule
111

Math exists without computers but computers don't exist without math. It's very obvious computer science is just a subset of math.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 2:21 PM
horizontal rule
112

Is Saul Kripke considered analytical? His work is important in formal methods and knowledge representation.

110: My (original) graduate institution had a programming requirement for the CS PhD, since it was possible to go through all of your coursework and research without actually touching a computer. I once overheard an Associate Professor being informed of the existence of "grep."


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 2:21 PM
horizontal rule
113

110 is my view. The distinction is mostly social. Choose the perspective that works for you and don't be a dick about it.

111: Insert the obvious cliche about telescopes.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 2:24 PM
horizontal rule
114

Is Saul Kripke considered analytical?

Oh hell yes.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 2:25 PM
horizontal rule
115

To the extent that one prominent (albeit much-criticized!) soi-disant history of analytic philosophy basically culminates in the arrival of Kripke. As I understand it.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 2:26 PM
horizontal rule
116

113.2: That they drive poorly.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 2:28 PM
horizontal rule
117

116: Instrumentalist.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 2:47 PM
horizontal rule
118

86 David Bohm and John von Neumann, philosophically insignificant?

Wait, are you counting them as philosophers? I wasn't saying physicists never contributed to things philosophers might care about, though god knows David Bohm has sent lots of people off on an insane wild goose chase to deny the essence of quantum mechanics. I guess he may have done something useful to do but I don't know about it.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 3:06 PM
horizontal rule
119

The quote in 88 doesn't settle the issue at all, at least not out of--haha-- context. I'll have to dig up my copy and read the contextualist chapter again to see if i'm remembering right, which I'll get to approximately never, at this rate.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 3:07 PM
horizontal rule
120

"done something useful too" not "done something useful to do"


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 3:10 PM
horizontal rule
121

In GR, whether Brad DeLong gets dizzy or not is an entirely local question, not influenced by the stars.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 3:11 PM
horizontal rule
122

77 It's hard to see who else would take credit for logic than philosophers, what with it being one of the central parts of the discipline and all.

Sure! Logic is great. But people understood how to think logically hundreds of years ago.

And that's especially easy when talking about the sort of formal logic we use, because that can go straight to analytic philosophy.

No one I know ever uses formal logic.

And the fact that philosophy of science tends to structure the way scientists conceive of science and do it isn't too strange, given that that's basically what 'philosophy of science' means.

So it structures the way scientists work by definition? I'm not aware of scientists whose decisions about how to do science are influenced in any significant way by philosophy of science. Most scientists will say something stupid about Popper if you ask them, I'll grant you that. Most of the "philosophical" questions people I know run into about how to do science are Bayesian vs. frequentist sorts of things, where I think the terms of debate have been mostly set in place by statisticians rather than philosophers.

I have no desire to dismiss philosophy qua philosophy, I'm just saying that if philosophy wants to argue that it's been useful on the basis of its contributions to progress in physics I see very little evidence of that in the way that physicists actually work.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 3:17 PM
horizontal rule
123

In the world of data management and preservation, reproducibility seems to be taking over for falsifiability as the quick lazy way to declare what true science is.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 3:24 PM
horizontal rule
124

No one I know ever uses formal logic.

I assume you're drawing from the set of physicists. Formal logic has had a rather profound influence on computing.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 3:27 PM
horizontal rule
125

124: Yes! I'm making a claim of very limited scope that I think was fairly clear in 57, about something where I think I have a fair amount of knowledge and credibility. I'm not trying to attack philosophy as a whole or say that it was never useful.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 3:29 PM
horizontal rule
126

I sincerely hope that few philosophers will want to base philosophy's value on its putative contributions to the progress of physics.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 3:38 PM
horizontal rule
127

As upper-case letters in this thread go I broadly endorse MHPH and FL; as lower-case letters go, I broadly endorse nosflow.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 3:39 PM
horizontal rule
128

I should have ignored 49; didn't mean to antagonize anyone.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 3:42 PM
horizontal rule
129

Essear 12:15: Individuals in the biz have told me so. I doubt that there's a consensus.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 3:48 PM
horizontal rule
130

I think philosophy of science has something serious to contribute to the crisis of confidence in the medical and social sciences. I also think you see some interesting influence from philosophy of science when you hear people talk about how it's relevant whether a claim has a sound theoretical basis in addition to empirical evidence. All this seems less relevant to physics than to other science though.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 3:54 PM
horizontal rule
131

I am, BTW, happy to see anyone dismissing philosophy more vigorously than I do! But I've conceded a point, mostly because because people with philosophy training have credited that training for some of their success in these tech and scientific areas.

When I say "philosophy" in these arguments I mostly mean Anglo-American-Scandinavian analytic philosophy since WWII. I am favorable to many kinds of pre-analytic philosophy, notably some of those dismissed by analytic philosophy, but not especially continental philosophy.

Mach seems to have influenced both Einstein and (negatively) Lenin, but I can't understand his writing, much of which is very closely tied to scientific problems.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 3:58 PM
horizontal rule
132

I find myself wondering, once or twice a decade, whether law and philosophy is useful. And by useful, I don't mean that it provides a salary for an academic, but whether it's going to help me win a case.

Then I see a foremost scholar of the field saying something like calling people who act like jerks "unprofessional" might well be libel per se in Canada, and I'm cured of the thought.

I've gone on record with the position that no "libertarian" should be allowed to spew their childish fantasies on the public internet without first litigating a breach of contract action to judgment; and then collected it. I've not quite formulated a test for philosophers, defamation, and a jury trial, but I'll work on it.

I used to tell my colleagues in the transactional business, especially when they were gloating about some clever contract provision they'd gotten in some deal, that all that fancy language only means what 12 people with high school educations think it means, after they've met your client, and had a chance to think about whether he's a good guy.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 4:08 PM
horizontal rule
133

-ed;+ing


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 4:10 PM
horizontal rule
134

I also think you see some interesting influence from philosophy of science when you hear people talk about how it's relevant whether a claim has a sound theoretical basis in addition to empirical evidence.

Every so often I encounter really hardcore empiricists and I find them very confusing. Like when OPERA reported faster-than-light neutrinos: it obviously contradicted everything we already know about how the world works, so surely it was wrong. But I know reasonable people who said "wait, let's be cautious about this, we can't ignore data; maybe it's really important." I think that shows a weird reluctance to trust one's priors. If I suddenly saw that my chair was floating three feet off the ground, I'd suspect something wrong with my eyes or brain, not with my understanding of gravity, because which is more likely to be wrong?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 4:11 PM
horizontal rule
135

Philosophy of science also has contributed to the crisis of arrogance of economics, though.

Philosophy of science, like economics, has all the right answers right there on the shelf. The problem is that in both cases the right answers are mixed indistinguishably in with the wrong answers.

http://www.amazon.com/Economics-Philosophy-Science-Deborah-Redman/dp/0195082745


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 4:20 PM
horizontal rule
136

Essear, I don't know about scientists themselves, but many science buffs, tech freaks, futurologists, etc. give extra points for counterintuitivity. They normally point to quantum physics and cosmology as 1.) great sciences which are b.) often counterintuitive.

And also economists and Analytic philosophers also seem to do so.

While it is historically true that some counterintuitive visionaries turned out to be great creative geniuses, a lot of them were just wrong. But they are forgotten.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 4:27 PM
horizontal rule
137

I don't know if I'd go so far as to say all of the right answers. But philosophy does have a lot of answers! Many, many answers. Just books full of them.

Essear I think here you're kind of doing what I referred to in 66. (I don't mean 'as a conscious and sneaky strategy', but as in 'this is a tricky pattern of thought to fall into'.) If the philosophic contributions (to how things get understood* or what people actually get up to when approaching problems) don't count, and the contributions of philosophers that are just them doing physics aren't philosophy doing the contributing, just more physics that happen to be done by someone with a different degree.

*E.g., the idea of explaining things by reference to laws of nature is not something that was just always there sitting around and didn't have to be invented. For the most part that one's on Descartes. The argument for why is a bit...awkward though (it's explicitly theological, at least from the bits of it/to the extent that I remember it). Or there's the critical experiment/falsifiability stuff, and the corresponding and destructive problems (Popper; Duhem, Quine).


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 4:35 PM
horizontal rule
138

There was a reason for my caveat "since physics developed into its own separate field". In the 16th and 17th centuries I would not say that had happened yet, and there was clearly a lot going on with people figuring out how this whole "science" thing worked that involved interplay between what we would now call philosophy and what we would now call physics.

I'm more reluctant to ascribe substantial influence to someone like Popper because as far as I can tell the main change between physics as she is practiced now versus in the days of, say, Maxwell or Faraday or Young (I'm even tempted to say Newton) is statistical sophistication. The history of how statistical hypothesis testing developed seems long and complicated and I don't know a huge amount about it, so maybe some philosophers played a key role.

As for "the contributions of philosophers that are just them doing physics", I would be happy to give them due credit if I knew any (modern) examples at all.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 4:50 PM
horizontal rule
139

MHP: But my point is, philosophy does not tell you which of their answers are right. That's the difference from science.

I developed this idea in arguments with economists. Anything I would say someone would brightly chip in with something like "Pigou discussed that a century ago". But that aspect of Pigou had been ignored most of that time.

Bringing debates to an conclusion (end) which can function as a truth does not seem to be a goal of philosophy. It seems more to be elaborating arguments and developing conjectures. And it's true, within any given fraction of philosophy, truths will be claimed. But the discipline as a whole doesn't seem to tend toward concluding anything. (To say nothing aout the methodological exclusion of some of the fractions).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 4:50 PM
horizontal rule
140

Whether right or wrong in philosophy, Mach did contribute to science. He was a scientist first. The flow seems to have been from rather than to science.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 4:52 PM
horizontal rule
141

Given how often physicists claim to make original, foundational contributions to fields they only stumbled into last week, we probably deserve for people in other fields to start telling us how they can revolutionize physics.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 5:02 PM
horizontal rule
142

Ok, but if "what is science and what are we up to when we're doing it and what should the results look like" gets to count as a part of physics then a heck of a lot of philosophers are contributing to physics. And seriously the argument for laws of motion was something like God continually recreates the universe in a way consistent with his perfection and that means that motion must be explainable by reference to the minimum number of principles (rather than an intricate discussion of causal powers) because that would be the most elegant and hence most perfect creation. (This is all from memory of something years ago because I don't want to go dig through all of his stuff to track down the original bits.) I mean, if that gets to count as doing physics then some theologians should be getting serious grant money for complicated equipment.

And I picked this example not just because I had it on hand and laws are a big deal. Explaining stuff by reference to laws of nature at all has been taking a beating in philosophy of science over the last few decades* in favor of, yes, causal powers. But if/to the extent that it does have an influence on what physicists get up to it's is going to be a ways down the road and by the time it's clear that it happened it'll look like saying "but what about laws?" as well.

*(the quick, dirty, and any-philosopher-of-science-is-about-to-have-a-stroke version of the argument I remember is something like 'if your ceteris paribus clause ends up meaning 'but, you know, not really' then there's a problem.')


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 5:09 PM
horizontal rule
143

I am sad about the commenters that just had strokes.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 5:13 PM
horizontal rule
144

What is a "causal power"?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 5:15 PM
horizontal rule
145

There is an interesting aspect to these conversations, where working philosophers generally weigh in with "of course philosophy is very important to [ field ]" and are probably right, but then people working in that field are like "okay, but I don't know anybody who reads contemporary philosophy or talks to contemporary philosophers about how or why we do the work we do, so how does this work...?"

So how does that work? There are people in my field who are very engaged with philosophers, and talk to/publish with/assign the works of current/20th century philosophers, but there are a lot of people (like the neuroscientists mentioned above) who mostly think about people like Brodmann or Hubel or whatever when they think about who guides them and, if they have a personal take on of philosophy of science at all, have a sort of cod-logical positivism that they accreted who knows how. So, taking as given the truth that contemporary philosophers actually do have a lot to say -- are saying a lot to -- scientists working in [ field ], how is it happening?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 5:24 PM
horizontal rule
146

Speaking personally, my intuitive guess is that any research that I'm doing is like three or four degrees of separation, in terms of what has influenced my approach and direction, from any philosophy qua philosophy, along a bunch of different vectors. But maybe I'm wrong! Could easily be the case.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 5:26 PM
horizontal rule
147

I certainly did have to read philosophy as part of my coursework, so there's that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 5:27 PM
horizontal rule
148

145: It seems like it would be a two-step process. The scientists heavily engaged with philosophy absorb some of what the philosophers are doing, and the other scientists absorb some of that second-hand through the work of the first group.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 5:34 PM
horizontal rule
149

When it's structural I thinkt tends to happen in this sort of context. But like most interdisciplinary stuff it's relatively low on the broad structural impact and mostly a matter of what various individuals feel like doing. So the immediate or collaborative effects tend to be more random than not. There are also some fairly specific areas where the overlap is significant in terms of the actual people involved. (The best part of the Laurence Kraus/David Albert thing a while back was that David Albert actually does a lot of physics as well as philosophy, and in that general area of physics to boot. Also that his PhD was in theoretical physics and not philosophy of science.)

As far as causal powers (similar to dispositions or capacities, I think) go we've reached the point where my general knowledge fades past the point where I'm willing to say hand-wavey stuff. In general structure, from what I do know, the argument ends up being between people who think Hume had some good ideas about causation and people who think Aristotle did. But I'm not entirely comfortable saying even that much. (My general understanding is: laws are increasingly controversial when it comes to asking whether they're actually making claims about anything or just rules of thumb describing something entirely different, with the latter gaining ground on the former.)


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 5:37 PM
horizontal rule
150

To be fair, I do know a place where philosophers have had a big influence on some people in my field. It centers around things like the Doomsday Paradox and Boltzmann brains. I might as well throw in our future robot overlords too. I think I've made my opinion about at least some of that clear here in the past.

(On the other hand, I have much more respect for the potential explanatory power of the Anthropic Principle, but as far as I know that originated with physicists, not philosophers.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 5:39 PM
horizontal rule
151

(And now that I look at Wikipedia it tells me the Doomsday Paradox is also due to Bran/don Car/ter, so I guess I can't give that one to philosophers.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 5:40 PM
horizontal rule
152

It's also worth noting that the same bit in 66 applies in the opposite direction: physicists doing philosophy that contributes to discussions in physics are still doing philosophy and that philosophy is still contributing to physics...

I mean, whether philosophers are contributing to physics is at least separable from whether philosophy as a thing contributes to it.

(All the standard pitfalls of interdisciplinary work apply when it comes from someone with one specialty doing something that's really part of a different but related one, of course, but it happens often enough and in both directions, and can be really fruitful.)


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 5:47 PM
horizontal rule
153

149: David Albert does not understand quantum mechanics or the experimental status of relativity. He does not contribute anything to physics that competent physicists care about.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 5:59 PM
horizontal rule
154

I just came home from teaching my philosophy of science grad class, so I feel like I should have more to contribute here. Not so much, though.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 6:02 PM
horizontal rule
155

laws are increasingly controversial when it comes to asking whether they're actually making claims about anything or just rules of thumb describing something entirely different

I can't begin to imagine what this means. Can you explain?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 6:09 PM
horizontal rule
156

153: What a bizarrely written abstract. In fairness to philosophers, wouldn't you say that most physicists have not contributed anything to physics that competent physicists care about.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 6:15 PM
horizontal rule
157

We need to know the average VORP of your physics practicing philosophers.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 6:17 PM
horizontal rule
158

Huh. I'm coming to this way late, and haven't read the thread, I'm afraid. I knew there was trouble coming down the pike for Leiter, but I didn't know Jason Stanley was a principal in the matter. Good for him.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 6:17 PM
horizontal rule
159

Oh, I've completely changed my mind about Professor Leiter.

http://mtcowgirl.com/2014/10/02/former-colleague-says-voters-should-be-concerned-about-vandyke/


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 6:19 PM
horizontal rule
160

And Velleman. And Chalmers. Jeepers. Sorry, I really just hadn't been following this.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 6:24 PM
horizontal rule
161

It seems to me that physicists are more likely than people in any other discipline to say that philosophy has done nothing for them in several hundred years. And this makes sense, because physics has been an independent field for much longer than a lot of other fields.

I wouldn't stake the honor of our field (if it has any) on whether we have made contributions to physics. I do think that philosophy can help with the flow of ideas out of physics into other fields and the popular consciousness. This might seem like a controversial thing to say, because of all of the total nonsense that has been spun out of quantum mechanics. But remember that the first person to start making big, vague, bullshit philosophical claims based on quantum mechanics was Niels Bohr.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 6:38 PM
horizontal rule
162

154: Explain powers? The best I've got here is second hand philosophy of science which is pretty tenuous and I think also potentially half lies.

The abstract in 153 is pretty amazing, also. I have no idea what could possibly be in it. The guy does have a Ph.D in theoretical physics though, and has apparently published a whole bunch of articles in Physical Review which is at least some sort of physics journal (or possibly journals because it seems to vary). So I can only assume he has some knowledge of the area and I don't think it's fair to judge him by things that he wrote when he was incredibly high.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 7:00 PM
horizontal rule
163

159:

So how's the election looking, or is there polling on SC races?


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 7:00 PM
horizontal rule
164

"I still don't think that analytical philosophy does more good than harm WRT the understanding of history, politics, ethics, or social theory. "

No one seems to disagree. Can we endorse it by acclamation?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 7:14 PM
horizontal rule
165

We don't have that much polling on anything, and I'd guess no one is polling this race. I hope Justice Wheat can beat this back, it's really an obscenity what the big out-of-state money is trying to pull off in this one.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 7:17 PM
horizontal rule
166

In fairness to philosophers, wouldn't you say that most physicists have not contributed anything to physics that competent physicists care about.

[sob]


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 7:19 PM
horizontal rule
167

I just got a pretty good looking mailer from the Wheat campaign.

My house rep asked me to go door knocking, which I guess I'll do when it gets closer. Here's a story that appeared today about the fellow in the next district over: when 3,000 votes wins a seat, it becomes a matter of the personal touch.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 7:22 PM
horizontal rule
168

Explain powers

Kenny Powers is a man. Kenny Powers is an athlete. Kenny Powers is a lover. But the most he is, I mean, the thing that Kenny Powers is the most, is a goddamn champion.


Posted by: OPINIONATED FUCKING RIGHT | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 7:34 PM
horizontal rule
169

Whenever my house rep sees me, he pretends to get my address wrong so I'm in the next district.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 7:41 PM
horizontal rule
170

Maybe some philosopher could explain to him why that's a bad idea.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 7:51 PM
horizontal rule
171

At first I thought "House Rep" was a term analogous to "precinct captain," but then realized it meant your state representative. I was wondering what kind of subdivision a "house" was, feels collegey, but of course it makes sense this way. The lower legislative body is always called the "House," in English-speaking countries.

I guess I don't know about Ireland, there may be a gaelic term.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 7:52 PM
horizontal rule
172

170: He is being very empirically-focused on the issue.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 7:57 PM
horizontal rule
173

We call it the House of Representatives here: some states call it the Assembly. My state senate seat isn't up for election this time. I'm the precinct committeeman. The next precinct north is within the CSKT Nation, so the Salish word would be more relevant than the Gaelic.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 7:57 PM
horizontal rule
174

Toast a few weeks ago had a funny post about stupid letters students write to profs. Can't begin to compare with the dumb shit that profs write one they get blogs. The crew involved in this mess are a walking and talking argument for 5/5 teaching loads that leave faculty with no time for anything but grading papers late into the night.


Posted by: No longer Middle Aged Man | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 9:42 PM
horizontal rule
175

Whoa, hella welsh rarebitty dreams tonight. Just woke from a long one involving some kind of SEK-JRoth-HelpyChalk-Sifu mashup character living in a 5th floor coldwater walk up in Manhattan with a partner based on the Russian scholar sister of a friend of mine. And there was all kinds of mind-reading at parties involved too. Probably should go to sleep so early. Shit, a lot of my friends still have a couple of hours to work tonight.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:01 PM
horizontal rule
176

should *not* go to sleep so early, that is


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10- 2-14 10:02 PM
horizontal rule
177

y'all aren't being mean enough to brian leiter in this thread. I was so disappointed.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 12:48 AM
horizontal rule
178

y'all aren't being mean enough to brian leiter in this thread. I was so disappointed.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 12:48 AM
horizontal rule
179

THAT DISAPPOINTED!


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 12:49 AM
horizontal rule
180

But remember that the first person to start making big, vague, bullshit philosophical claims based on quantum mechanics was Niels Bohr.

A bit unfair on Bohr. He was very much influenced by Logical Positivism and so basically refused to make any metaphysical claims at all (when he was concentrating and speaking precisely); for Bohr, "collapsing the probability waveform" was simply a description of the calculation technique (in the same way that Feynman also refused to go beyond the mathematics and interpret path integrals as implying anything about the existence of possible worlds).

There were a load of V/B/M claims made about the Copenhagen Interpretation, but most of them are attributable to Heisenberg, not Bohr.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 1:11 AM
horizontal rule
181

180: we already hate Heisenberg and Feynman; does 161 mean we have to start hating Bohr as well? Shame, he comes across as a nice chap.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 1:56 AM
horizontal rule
182

WELL, HE DOES AND HE DOESN'T.


Posted by: OPINIONATED MICHAEL FRAYN | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 3:02 AM
horizontal rule
183

That's not a very complementary thing to say, Michael.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 3:10 AM
horizontal rule
184

182 was not a name I was familiar with. The first sentence of his Wikipedia biography would serve for the start of a black comedic novel: Frayn was born to a deaf asbestos salesman.

And "born to" meaning his father rather than his mother, which I only noted the oddness of after cut-and-pasting because apparently I'm not a feminist. I blame society.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 6:09 AM
horizontal rule
185

It's a good play.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 6:11 AM
horizontal rule
186

That's what I said.


Posted by: Opinionated Mrs. Lincoln | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 6:15 AM
horizontal rule
187

He's a good writer. And, trivia point, he learned Russian as part of his National Service in the army, like (and alongside) Alan Bennett.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 6:16 AM
horizontal rule
188

It's a good play.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 6:20 AM
horizontal rule
189

188: Nice act, what do you call yourselves?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 6:36 AM
horizontal rule
190

171 I guess I don't know about Ireland, there may be a gaelic term.

The Dáil, or An Dáil if the article is in Irish as well. The upper house, the Seanad, is sometimes called the Senate but the Dáil is always the Dáil and the members are T.D.s - T.D. being Teachta Dála.


Posted by: usual suspect who now also has a hangover | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 8:03 AM
horizontal rule
191

Essear, do you have any opinions about Da/vid Wa/llace? (Or know who he is?)


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 8:20 AM
horizontal rule
192

Why do we hate Feynmann? I can't have been keeping up


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 8:20 AM
horizontal rule
193

192: There was a "Bad Feynman! Bad!" blog meme going around recently. Apparently people who weren't paying attention just now discovered that, while being a colorful character, he could also be kind of a dick.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 8:22 AM
horizontal rule
194

And "born to" meaning his father rather than his mother, which I only noted the oddness of after cut-and-pasting because apparently I'm not a feminist. I blame society.

His father had issue, out of his mother.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 8:25 AM
horizontal rule
195

The Dáil, or An Dáil if the article is in Irish as well

Thanks, I posed the question because I half remembered that, probably from Robert Key's BBC history shown on PBS in the 80s. History television before Burns.

Although I never saw it spelled before, and would have spelled it "Dial," probably because of an association of Irishness with deodorant soap.

I have the genes, but have so far been able to resist cutting into bars of soap with a pocket knife.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 8:31 AM
horizontal rule
196

193: He had several colorful ways of dismissing the contribution of mathematicians to physics. And even more contemptuous of philosophical contributions.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 8:38 AM
horizontal rule
197

191: I don't know much about his work, but from what little I'm aware of he seems to be in more or less the right camp on the interpretation of quantum mechanics (that is: decoherence plays a central role, and the possibly tricky bit is explaining the Born rule). Like most people who do quantum foundations stuff he seems to spend some time beating dead horses, but unlike most others at least he isn't pointing at a favorite dead horse and claiming it's healthy.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 8:49 AM
horizontal rule
198

191: I liked the essay about the state fair.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 8:59 AM
horizontal rule
199

197: Thanks.

I'm pretty sure he does have a favorite horse, namely the many worlds interpretation, and, though I'm not competent to say, I would have assumed that that's a live horse.

His internet persona seems reasonable.

198: The author used three names in order to avoid such confusions. And also to give himself option of becoming a serial killer.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 9:09 AM
horizontal rule
200

195: I think the "i" isn't pronounced because Gaelic spelling.

199: ...or presidential assassin.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 9:15 AM
horizontal rule
201

Or be the subject of an Orson Welles blockbuster.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 9:15 AM
horizontal rule
202

Leon Czolgosz's middle name?

Frank.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 9:18 AM
horizontal rule
203

I remember thinking that Albert's books on the philosophy of QM and of statistical mechanics had reasonable and interesting things to say, though the style was just like that abstract, extended over hundreds of pages. (And don't ask me what he could possibly be thinking with that abstract.)

199.last: You don't say.


Posted by: Cosma Rohilla Shalizi | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 9:19 AM
horizontal rule
204

The "chapter" that abstract is from seems to be the transcription of a lecture, and maybe/probably the abstract was generated by the publisher's CMS software. Good thing they're charging a lot of money to access it.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 9:22 AM
horizontal rule
205

: I think the "i" isn't pronounced because Gaelic spelling.

I think it's pronounced more or less "Doyle". Not sure though.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 9:24 AM
horizontal rule
206

I thought the rule was that if you have the vowel with the fada (accute accent) all adjacent vowels are there only to mark broadness/slenderness of nearby consonants. But I've never actually heard it said, and it might also be different in Hibernian English than in Irish Gaelic.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 9:27 AM
horizontal rule
207

205: yes
http://www.forvo.com/word/d%C3%A1il_%C3%A9ireann/


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 9:31 AM
horizontal rule
208

205,
pretty much yes, but with a sort of "Dh" sound at the beginning. The "i" is not so much not being pronounced as indicating that the "l" is palatalised.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 9:32 AM
horizontal rule
209

pwnd, by janey! well by the Straits of Moyle, really.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 9:34 AM
horizontal rule
210

We're both right--the "ái" is definitely a long "a", but it does make the entire "Dáil Éireann" sound like "Doyle" being said in a very strange accent.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 9:39 AM
horizontal rule
211

Czolgosz was clean cut and not bad looking, and (while socially inept) more assimilated and better educated than the rest of his family. He had a knack for repairing things.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1e/Leon_Czolgosz_ca_1900.jpg


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 10:11 AM
horizontal rule
212

I am not returning to my trolling behavior, but I don't think that the problem with analytic philosophy is in its relation to physics, but in the areas of ethics, social thought, politics, and history.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 10:29 AM
horizontal rule
213

199.2 I'm pretty sure he does have a favorite horse, namely the many worlds interpretation

The many worlds interpretation is a bunch of loaded and controversial words attached to a theory which is just quantum mechanics. To the extent that it's just quantum mechanics, it's obviously the correct thing to be talking about. All the people who want actually-collapsing wavefunctions or modifications to unitary time evolution or hidden variables are the ones who have dead horses.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 10:36 AM
horizontal rule
214

In one alternate reality, we're all dead horses.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 10:38 AM
horizontal rule
215

I am not returning to my trolling behavior, but I don't think that the problem with analytic philosophy is in its relation to physics, but in the areas of ethics, social thought, politics, and history.

In other words, you're not trolling because you can't find anyone who disagrees with what you're saying.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 10:38 AM
horizontal rule
216

I didn't mind the trolling.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 10:39 AM
horizontal rule
217

In other words, you're not trolling because you can't find anyone who disagrees with what you're saying.

Schrodinger's Troll.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 10:50 AM
horizontal rule
218

It's not trolling because analytic philosophy either refers to a particular research program which mostly isn't around anymore and which wasn't in those areas in the first place, or it refers to mainstream anglo-american philosophy.

In the first case it's trivially true because it wasn't about any of those things ("I don't think the problem with philosophy of mind is that it's about the mind, it's that it isn't political philosophy"), or it's just pointlessly false ("I think the problem with contemporary anglo-american philosophy is that people like Martha Nussbaum, Julia Annas, John Rawls, Rosalind Hursthouse, Thomas Hill, Timothy Scanlon, Michael Slote, Terence Irwin, Richard Kraut and on and on and on are weak in the areas of ethics and history of philosophy.")


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 10:50 AM
horizontal rule
219

||
Finally some pushback against "Internet people" meeting up.
|>


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 10:54 AM
horizontal rule
220

From 219's link:

"This is how it happens," Kay Sheehan said. "Once you have a café serving drinks on the street, then you have a precedent."

Sidewalk cafes, the bane of civilization. Wait, what? Where do they find these people?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 10:57 AM
horizontal rule
221

All the people who want actually-collapsing wave functions . . . are the ones who have dead horses.

Really? Is this just your opinion or the consensus of your peers?


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 11:07 AM
horizontal rule
222

Teofilo, I didn't really believe that I could finesse agreement from lack of disagreement, though I did try at #164.

If you want to call it post-analytic philosophy, fine. Analytic philosophy as I use the term is defined in large part by what it excludes and by its ancestry, though I think that there are probably common traits. But to specify these common traits would entangle me in a ten-year-long a.p. quibbling exercise, which is what I am trying to avoid.

Incidentally, Straussians and Chicago School economists also use the "We don't exist! We don't agree about anything!" dodge.

"I think the problem with contemporary anglo-american philosophy is that people like Martha Nussbaum, Julia Annas, John Rawls, Rosalind Hursthouse, Thomas Hill, Timothy Scanlon, Michael Slote, Terence Irwin, Richard Kraut and on and on and on are weak in the areas of ethics and history of philosophy."

That's what I'm saying, if corrected to be a summary of what I actually said. I'm only familiar with Nussbaum and Rawls, and they seem weak to me. There's a really vigorous debate about all kinds of things in the fields I actually mentioned (ethics, politics, history, social thought; I didn't say history of philosophy) and no one has brought most of these authors to my attention. Nussbaum seems oblivious to the actual world, though maybe I'm reading too much into her relation to Sunnstein. Rawls assumes the very things that are being calle dinto question, notably the goal of equality.


Posted by: john Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 11:14 AM
horizontal rule
223

Rawls assumes the very things that are being calle dinto question, notably the goal of equality.

Boggle.


Posted by: lambchop | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 11:29 AM
horizontal rule
224

If 223 is saying that Rawls actually works to establish equality as goal, that's what I always thought. I'm somewhat hampered by never having read any Rawls, but it's hard to avoid reading about Rawls.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 11:31 AM
horizontal rule
225

Also, my previous comment was a poop joke. So maybe people won't take me as seriously on philosophy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 11:32 AM
horizontal rule
226

I am just too confused by what's being claimed to be properly trolled. Who counts as doing good work for you in these fields?


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 11:35 AM
horizontal rule
227

Whoever is making the most poop jokes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 11:36 AM
horizontal rule
228

219,220: "I don't want children walking near 'Internet people' meeting."

Run, you little bastards, run!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 11:44 AM
horizontal rule
229

97.6% percent of invocations of "for the children" are fatuous bullshit.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 11:45 AM
horizontal rule
230

Jerry's kids. Youth sports. Suburbs. Disneyland. All excuses for adults behaving badly.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 11:49 AM
horizontal rule
231

Wait. Which Jerry?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 11:51 AM
horizontal rule
232

Both I guess.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 11:53 AM
horizontal rule
233

Re: 191 & 197

I know him. s1m0nn S/ Aund3rs, with whom he sometimes writes, supervised my D.Phil.

I'm no Rawlsian, but I have a) read Rawls, and b) much of the secondary literature. Emerson's is not an accurate precis.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 11:59 AM
horizontal rule
234

Incidentally, Straussians and Chicago School economists also use the "We don't exist! We don't agree about anything!" dodge.

I recall big arguments at The Valve back in the day about the capital T Theory folks doing this.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 12:12 PM
horizontal rule
235

There's a really vigorous debate about all kinds of things in the fields I actually mentioned (ethics, politics, history, social thought; I didn't say history of philosophy) and no one has brought most of these authors to my attention.

If you haven't noticed a bunch of those names I included I can assure you that you are not in fact doing any comprehensive reading in those fields, especially not ethics which most of those people are part of. And not subtly/small/barely mentioned parts either, but pretty damn big figures. I mean, seriously, what on earth are you talking about here? A really insular kind of ethics that doesn't pay attention to most of the actual ethics that's going on in philosophy hasn't brought them to your attention?

You might as well be saying "Sure physics is ok at doing experiments about particles, but they don't do any theory which is a problem. There's a lot of interesting questions about theoretical physics and the mainstream physicists never talk about it. Wait, what was that essear? No I haven't heard of those people being discussed in the theoretical physics literature I've read."


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 12:20 PM
horizontal rule
236

213: So you say that the least parsimonious explanation is the most parsimonious explanation? Bold claim.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 12:26 PM
horizontal rule
237

I had to double-check to make sure 219 hadn't sourced the Onion. People actually say that?


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 12:36 PM
horizontal rule
238

199.last: We are Legion. There's a reason I have tried to make sure that all my professional publications use FirstName MiddleInitial Lastname, even if house style suggests differently. This dates back to grad school, when I kept getting confused with FirstName DifferentMiddleInitial Lastname, who was a grad student at another school at the same time in the same field but a different subfield. Hilarity also ensued when I worked for a company that thought everyone's email address should be FirstName_Lastname@company.com.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 12:56 PM
horizontal rule
239

I have come to the realisation that the answer to all trolleyology problems is to switch the tram onto whichever tracks will kill the most trolls.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 12:58 PM
horizontal rule
240

I absolutely reject the idea that "Physics is abstruse, ethics is abstruse, commonsense folk ethics and physics are at best inferior versions of expert ethics and physics." The ethical world is not much like the physical world, and the relationship between folk ethics and expert pethics is far different than the difference between folk ethics and expert ethics. Folk ethics is constitutive of ethical world in a way that folk physics is not constitutive of the physical world.

Could MLK or Gandhi pass an ethics course? I doubt it. Could the Marquis de Sade teach an ethics course? Probably. How many of the ethical advances in history came from analytic type ethics? Kant and Bentham, I suppose, but how did that trun out?

The insular ethics is the trolley car ethics. Who cares? We've come to the pissing match stage so I'll quit trolling. A flash from the past.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 1:17 PM
horizontal rule
241

"We" in the sense of "I". I can't help myself.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 1:20 PM
horizontal rule
242

Folk ethics is constitutive of ethical world in a way that folk physics is not constitutive of the physical world.

That seems true enough. Probably largely because of religion. Or religion is because of it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 1:26 PM
horizontal rule
243

221 Really? Is this just your opinion or the consensus of your peers?

It's a pretty strong consensus among reasonable people who've thought about the question at all, although I realize that in saying that I'm both possibly committing the "no true Scotsman" fallacy and eliding a lot of people who view quantum mechanics as a rote recipe and never really thought about what is or is not a measurement.

But it's really obvious if you read Woj/ciech Zur/ek's papers or the book Deco/herence and the Quan/tum to Classi/cal Tran/sition by Schloss/hauer (or his review article) that these people are actually explaining, within quantum mechanics itself, the vast majority of phenomena people think are interpretationally tricky. They're doing so with satisfying physics answers and no bullshit. It's just worlds apart from any sort of spontaneous-collapse model or hidden variable theory, which are always klugey and ad hoc and horrifically ugly compared to quantum mechanics.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 1:26 PM
horizontal rule
244

How do I end up having these conversations on the internet so often? It's not a very pleasant way to procrastinate.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 1:29 PM
horizontal rule
245

244: So, String Theory: yay or nay?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 1:32 PM
horizontal rule
246

Let's talk about how radians are unitless.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 1:34 PM
horizontal rule
247

Arg, how did I miss the opportunity to say that people are "beating a dead cat"?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 1:41 PM
horizontal rule
248

247: You were bound to go wrong in one of the multiverses.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 1:43 PM
horizontal rule
249

240: so...now the objection isn't to analytic philosophy at all but to the basic idea of academic study rather than just going with everyone around you? I feel like your objection has started to expand to the point of silliness here.

Gandhi was a lawyer and MLK had a PhD (questionable bits aside). I'm fairly certain both of them could pass a college course if they really put their minds to it. And you've now equated 'analytic philosophy' with Bentham and Kant, so seriously what is the word "analytic" even doing there anymore? I think you're just babbling at this point.

Also as a side note it's worth pointing out that for all the abuse trolley problems get (and I certainly don't care about them) it's not like the people who are still talking about that sort of thing are just trying to make a list of all possible trolley-related-moral-problems with their solutions, in order to make future trolley-related decisions easier. The problem is that it really really looks like people's basic common sense/folk ethics judgements of what to do vary wildly based on things that look totally morally irrelevant in those situations. (It's trolleys in this case because it was trolleys in the first paper and why bother going to the trouble to make up a whole new example when there's a perfectly serviceable one right there?) And that's a genuine problem because it makes potential evidence for basic ethical principles/intuitions (like "try not to kill people") look dangerously unreliable.* The biggest part of that very small bit of moral philosophy is people trying to see if there's a way to understand the different reactions in a way that's basically consistent. And then other people breaking those suggestions because it's philosophy.

*(Anyone comfortable with "it's wrong to kill people if they're close enough to smell them but it's ok if they're a ways off"?)


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 1:52 PM
horizontal rule
250

Someone who is trying to understand the world as it works, their place in it, what must be done, etc., might without harm end up reading no academic philosophy at all.

If they put their minds to it both MLK and Gandhi could have passed the courses. Putting their minds to it would involve suppressing their own ethical beliefs and parrotting whatever the class was teaching. I wasn't impugning their intelligence.

Does not a lot of academic ethics trace back to Bentham or Kant? They talk as if it did, though they say consequentialism instead of Bentham.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 2:12 PM
horizontal rule
251

243: They explain a different thing, and then pretend to explain the measurement problem. I don't think the measurement problem is really a problem, because I'm an instrumentalist, and the standard description of quantum mechanics is a perfectly fine instrumental theory, but the fact that physicists think that answering a physics problem answers a philosophical question shows why physicists make such terrible philosophers.

The instrumentalist view is very simple: "I do an experiment, and I will see one of two outcomes, with some probability distribution. Why? Dunno." This is the no-bullshit stance. The bullshit stance is that there must be two of me, and we each experience one of the two outcomes.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 2:13 PM
horizontal rule
252

Bentham, or Kant, or Mill, or Aristotle, or Plato, or (significant historical figure here), sure, in that philosophy tends to trace back to earlier philosophy. If you're going with a "Utilitarians vs Intuitionists! FIGHT!" picture of how ethics looks then no, that hasn't been true for a very long time (to the extent that it ever was). Also there aren't many logical positivists running around.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 2:21 PM
horizontal rule
253

Maybe there are captive breeding programs for them, like with the condors except with more intricate feeding puppets.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 2:28 PM
horizontal rule
254

I have to admit that when i lost interest in that stuff I lost touch. I haven't seen anything new to make me change my mind, though. Nussbaum and Rorty sure don't.

Presumably there's been a post-decimation diversification in the field, as in evolution. Too much was decimated, though. Toulmin left the field, Gellner left the field, both only semi voluntarily. Even Rorty did.

The case in econ is similar. The orthodox economists are trying to make the minimum changes made necessary in 2008 while still freezing out the unorthodox. Perhaps the line will be moved slightly and a few of the heterodox let in. But philosophy has no motive to change.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 2:30 PM
horizontal rule
255

Yes, Walt, please explain quantum mechanics to me. I'll be sure to relay your valuable information to my students.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 2:39 PM
horizontal rule
256

Dude, just because you are an expert on actually applying quantum mechanics doesn't mean that your philosophical views are automatically right. I'm sure Max Tegmark has the exact same confidence that his expert knowledge makes his view on metaphysics correct. But hey, bluster and learn on authority if it makes you feel better.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 2:48 PM
horizontal rule
257

243: Thanks.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 2:48 PM
horizontal rule
258

Ok, so we're back to "analytic philosophy" in the sense of "a specific research project in philosophy between roughly 1900 and 1960something", yeah? Then stop talking like it's something else. And seriously if Nussbaum looks like she's doing utilitarian or Kantian stuff then, seriously, you really need to reacquaint yourself with the meanings of those terms.

"I don't know anything about what's happening currently in ethics so I have to resort to stale criticisms of a specific bit of philosophy from fifty years ago and assume that literally nothing has changed in the slightest because then I'd have to stop saying these things about it despite people who have read more recent stuff repeatedly saying that I'm way off base" isn't particularly compelling, especially when it comes along with accusing philosophers of being unprofessional* for doing things you have no evidence for.

*IANAL but I have been told that this is defamation.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 2:49 PM
horizontal rule
259

essear, I'm sorry I'm being pissy here. I have various philosophical objections to the many-worlds view, but right now I'm being a dickhead about it for some reason. I blame Obama.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 2:53 PM
horizontal rule
260

No, it was still there into the 80s. And when I look at journals from time to time I see stuff that looks about the same, even though to an insider it's very different. Same absences, deficiencies, and exclusions.

I have never accused anyone of being unprofessional. I am not a professional or, by and large, and advocate of professionalism.

Most of the world is indifferent to contemporary Anglo-American-Scandinavian philosophy, for pretty good reasons as far as I'm concerned. Since professional philosophers are by and large secure careerwise, they don't need to care, but I think that they should. There are good reasons why philosophy should be more "popular" than quantum physics.

It's really not worth it to me to spend a year or two boning up on the contemporary state of the field in order to denounce it in a more up to date manner. I'll just stick with the educated non-specialist consensus about the field. I note that you have not bothered to give me positive reasons whyI or anyone should care about your field, you've just disproved my statements to your satisfaction while explaining that you know these things and I don't.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 3:01 PM
horizontal rule
261

essear got to Walt sometime between 256 and 259! I bet he entangled him!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 3:17 PM
horizontal rule
262

I was replaced with the version of me from the evil Star Trek universe, which ironically is nicer than the original me.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 3:19 PM
horizontal rule
263

Okay, arguing from authority was kind of uncalled for, I was just running thin on patience. Let me try to explain my viewpoint. Sorry for the wall of text.

The instrumentalist view is very simple: "I do an experiment, and I will see one of two outcomes, with some probability distribution. Why? Dunno." This is the no-bullshit stance.

The problem with this--really, with talking about a "measurement problem" at all instead of the broader question "how does an approximately classical world emerge from the underlying quantum laws?"--is that it's unclear at what point you should apply a probability distribution. Sometimes states are in a quantum superposition. Sometimes you have a classical probability of them being in an eigenstate of some observable. When do you use which rule?

What should be uncontroversial is that decoherence has answered this question. The systems we study are never isolated; at this very moment you are being bombarded by air molecules, solar neutrinos, cosmic microwave photons, and all manner of other particles whose subsequent state is altered by their interaction with you in a way that means the state of you sitting there, reading this comment, has very little overlap with a state where you are standing across the room. Any interference among those two states would have to somehow involve all the zillions of particles that know where you are, and it's just too difficult to bring all those particles back together to recohere the state. (As an aside, the "where" part is usually the preferred basis, because interactions in quantum field theory are local; a lot of the talk about "nonlocality" in quantum mechanics obscures this crucial point by muddling what is an interaction and what is a correlation.)

This entanglement with huge numbers of environmental degrees of freedom transforms weird quantum states into superpositions of effectively classical states whose interference with each other is predicted by the quantum theory to be nonzero but completely negligible. If you trace over degrees of freedom you have no information about, this quantum state can be represented by a reduced density matrix that looks a lot like a classical probability distribution.

Up to now that was all physics and no philosophy. It is only once we've taken environmental effects into account to obtain a superposition of effectively noninterfering classical states that you should apply your instrumental rules for projecting onto one of those classical outcomes. At this point we have some choices. You can say that nature actually does this--that we amend quantum mechanics by some rule that says the state of the system is projected in some non-unitary way. But how does nature "know" which degrees of freedom are the system and which are the environment? Can you write down a sensible dynamical model where this happens? No one has ever succeeded in doing so.

The next choice is basically the (appropriately modernized) Copenhagen interpretation, which I think is the best version I know of your instrumental interpretation: once the environment has wiped out all possibilities of interference between effectively classical states, we might as well say the system is in one of those states, since the nonzero interference terms are so tiny that they will never matter. So the projection or "wavefunction collapse" is a choice we make to discard irrelevant information about the state of a system. That's fine, as far as it goes. But quantum mechanics by itself predicts that interference is still there, just tiny.

So the most parsimonious theory is just the one where there is unitary evolution and nothing else. Decoherence already answers various things people once considered philosophical problems: where is the boundary between classical and quantum? How do we know which basis of observables corresponds to the classical states? That's all dynamically determined. There's only one more step: how do we get from a reduced density matrix that looks like a superposition of noninterfering classical outcomes to the one classical outcome we actually experience?

From my point of view, this is the only step where a philosophical problem could remain that has not been clearly answered by physics. And I think the outline of the answer is pretty clear: our experience is completely determined by the state of our brain (I'm going to assume I can take that for granted, and any associated philosophical cans of worms are orthogonal to questions of quantum mechanics). So our conscious experience can only "know" about one of the effectively classical states, because our brain is subject to the same environmental decoherence as any other macroscopic object. Given that the theory itself predicts a superposition of many classical states, and doesn't privilege any one of them over the other, it's hard to imagine how we experience a particular one except to say that there is some probability we can assign to each outcome. (That's the philosophically delicate step, which I won't claim to have a very rigorous understanding of.) Once we accept that probability is the only way to match the underlying structure of the theory onto our experience, it's possible to prove that the Born rule is the only sensible way to assign those probabilities.

From my point of view, decoherence has solved about 90% of the confusing issues in quantum mechanics and left behind one kind of awkward logical leap that might be viewable as a philosophical problem. Nothing in this reasoning has suggested any need to modify quantum mechanics itself. But that's most of what the "interpretation" folks do: writing down theories of actual collapse, or hidden variables, or other radical alterations to the structure of the theory. I see this as unnecessary. The theory passes every test with flying colors. Most of the reluctance people have to admit that is due to a basic failure to understand, or acknowledge, the possibility of emergence: the basic building blocks of the theory look different from the outcome, so people want to alter the foundation instead of teasing out the way the outcome arises from the complex interaction of many of those building blocks.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 3:29 PM
horizontal rule
264

Dude do you have any idea how much popular philosophy there is out there these days? It's impressive. The old cliche about inaccessible academics has never been especially accurate and it's definitely not that way right now. I mean, sure, it's not as cool as quantum mechanics or anything, but come off it there's plenty of public engagement.

And think about what you're saying about ethics professors in 250.2.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 3:38 PM
horizontal rule
265

Based on the philosophy books I've seen in bookstores lately I assume all the current academic work is focused on bullshit and assholes. Oh wait, there was also that Veronica Mars and Philosophy book I noticed a few weeks ago.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 3:41 PM
horizontal rule
266

The existence of that series of books (and the insane number of them) is just incredible to me. I mean, not just because clearly people are buying them (I guess there's something interesting there), but because the stuff in them isn't generally very .... good.

I mean, not 'not so great' in the exciting sense, like Derrida or something. They tend to read like stuff that the author couldn't get published in a journal (or just had sitting around from when they were a first year graduate student) with some references to (whateveritis) tossed in. And yet the number of them out there is freaking absurd.

There are a bunch of less ridiculous philosophy for a popular audience books out there, though. Usually stuff like this, which is also part of a massive series of books but usually pretty good ones.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 3:58 PM
horizontal rule
267

To me, it seems like decoherence answers the question of why the world appears classical most of the time, which is logically distinct from the measurement problem. Maybe Bohr muddles these two things up with the correspondence principle, but they're not necessarily the same.

The point of the instrumentalist view is that it doesn't require any alteration of quantum mechanics. It's literally taking the recipes in quantum mechanics textbooks for predicting outcomes seriously. You do an experiment, this has a certain probability distribution. You wait awhile and do another experiment and the probability distribution changes in a predictable way. We care about quantum mechanics because it tells us what we will see when we look.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 4:03 PM
horizontal rule
268

It's literally taking the recipes in quantum mechanics textbooks for predicting outcomes seriously.

See, there's quantum mechanics, which is a theory in which states evolve according to a unitary time evolution operator, and there's "recipes in quantum mechanics textbooks," which tell you to do a non-unitary collapse operation whenever a "measurement" happens but don't tell you what a measurement is or why your measuring device shouldn't obey the same unitary time evolution rules as everything else. Decoherence resolves all of that. I thought I explained what's unsatisfying about this recipe-following approach and why decoherence improves it in 263, but I'm not going to try any more.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 4:10 PM
horizontal rule
269

the zillions of particles that know where you are
Oh great, as if I wasn't paranoid enough.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 5:23 PM
horizontal rule
270

I would like to thank Brian Leiter and the Unfogged community for this walk down memory lane and a chance to briefly relive my days of trollery.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 8:10 PM
horizontal rule
271

My pleasure.


Posted by: Opinionated, Great, Anonymous Philosopher | Link to this comment | 10- 3-14 8:41 PM
horizontal rule
272

Where are the trollery problems of yesteryear?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10- 4-14 6:12 AM
horizontal rule
273

On school stationery, no less.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 2:51 PM
horizontal rule
274

I know fuck all about Brian Leiter, but here he is giving Steven Salaita a very gracious introduction. Character evidence to mitigate sentencing, at least.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 7:50 PM
horizontal rule
275

He's on the proper side of most things on the merits. He's just a colossal asshole who is interpersonally malignant.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 7:56 PM
horizontal rule
276

And he's very much kiss up kick down.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10- 7-14 7:57 PM
horizontal rule