Usually, when we say how things are, we’re talking about non-linguistic bits of the world. “Gemini is a dog” is a sentence about a particular dog; so is “Gemini wants cheese.” Sometimes, though, we do talk about pieces of language. “Why did you say that?” asks for the reasons (psychological or otherwise) for someone else’s…
Thomson’s violinist is not an argument by analogy
There are analogies, and there are analogies. Some analogies feature prominently in analogical inference, while others merely function as illustrations of general principles. In these latter cases, the term “analogy” is used loosely, but the former type of case involves analogy in a stricter sense. In analogical inference, or arguing by analogy, analogies function instead…
Love and self-love
When we start philosophizing about something, we usually have some paradigm cases of the phenomenon in mind. Say you want to know what love is. It helps to start with the most central cases: romantic love, familial love, love for friends. Borderline cases, or examples involving a kind of loose or derivative notion of love…
“New” essay at Aeon
It’s new as in “most recent,” not new as in “actually recent.” This one is on what we’re doing when we’re doing epistemology. It focuses especially on the internalism/externalism debate, and I’m probably too proud of it.
A bad and persistent argument against Kant’s ethics
There is an argument against Kant’s moral philosophy that just won’t die. I’ve seen it show up in some surprising places: Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, and Patricia Churchland’s Braintrust. I remember a moral philosophy professor repeating it in class once, with approval. These are all smart people but they all level a criticism against Kant that’s based…
I’m teaching environmental philosophy for the first time this semester. It’s part of our school’s new environmental literacy degree requirement. Just like they need general education credits, they need credits relating somehow to the environment; courses like mine are “E” courses. It’s not an environmental ethics course per se, although ethics is part of it….
The humble preface
A lot of authors write prefaces for their books which acknowledge that they may have made a mistake somewhere in the book. A historian writing a history of Queen Elizabeth’s reign puts their name on hundreds of assertions made in the book, about the queen’s feelings, about important dates, and so on. So, “I’m on…
The vice of Frankenstein
What exactly was Victor Frankenstein’s problem?
In memory of Jack, the Sheff family dog
New essay: Wilfrid Sellars, sensory experience and the ‘Myth of the Given’
I haven’t posted on here in a while, but it’s for a mostly good reason: I’ve been waiting for this to go live. I basically couldn’t write until it was up. Now it’s up! I’m free! Please read it.