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Posts Tagged ‘science

Philosophers discover new moral principle

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Members of the Moral Philosophy Research Group hard at work

A previously unrecognized moral principle was discovered last week after ethicists at the University of Mesa realized that they would rather kill an old lady’s cat than a young girl’s puppy. The principle of moral naivete, as it is being called, justifies this preference by holding that the wrongness of inflicting a given harm can depend in part on the degree to which the victim has previously been exposed to such a harm.

The breakthrough came late Thursday as several members of the Moral Philosophy Research Group analyzed the results of a thought experiment they had run earlier in the night. “We were messing around, getting pretty sloshed,” explains Anthony Vega, the group’s principal investigator. “Basically it was just another night at The Lab,” a local bar and the group’s favorite venue for conducting research. Vega and several graduate students were playing Would You Rather, a party game and the standard research tool in normative ethics. Before long the group hit upon the question that has since sparked a firestorm of scholarly interest: Would you rather kill an old lady’s cat or a young girl’s puppy?

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February 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Consciousness goes under the microscope (UPDATED)

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Roth (right), Goldman (center), and a colleague at MSU crowd around The Experience Machine.

The nature of conscious experience has been one of philosophy’s most hotly debated questions in recent decades.  While discussions of intentionality, phenomenology, and first-person access have produced a voluminous literature, there’s been frustratingly little consensus.  Jamie Roth hopes to change that.

“I want to start a conversation about conscious experience that doesn’t just turn into another opportunity for Ned Block to talk about how impressive his orgasms are.”  She wants, that is, to break away from relying on diverging intuitions about cases.  “Representationalists and qualia freaks, physicalists and property dualists — each camp trots out its favored examples and no one ever changes their mind.”

In an effort to break the impasse, Roth is partnering with Francis Goldman, a microscopist at Michigan State University.  The two claim to have developed a technique for extracting and imaging subjects’ conscious experiences.  “Getting the experiences was easy,” says Roth.  “By the end of freshman year the average student is brimming with experiences they wish they didn’t have and is more than willing to donate a few.”

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April 6, 2012 at 12:02 am

Anti-realists attack climate science in new ad campaign

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According to leaked documents, the new Shell advertising campaign is based on a lightly edited version of the introduction to Haley’s PhD dissertation.

A series of television ads funded by Shell Oil Company hit the airwaves this week, responding to last month’s statement by Métaphysiciens Sans Frontières calling for immediate action to reduce global climate change.  The ads, produced by the public relations firm Anti-Realists for Responsible Science, take aim at mainstream climate science in general and the MSF statement in particular.

The first commercial aired Monday, focusing on the claim by MSF spokesman Frank Jackson that, if historical patterns continue, the carbon dioxide concentration of the earth’s atmosphere will reach a dangerous tipping point of 450 parts per million by mid-century.  In the ad, ARRS founder Jack Haley dismisses Jackson’s warning as “naive enumerative inductivism.”  Haley notes that for every year on record carbon dioxide levels have been below 450 parts per million.  “If that pattern continues, we’ll never reach 450 parts per million,” says Haley.  “So by Jackson’s own logic we both will and won’t reach the alleged tipping point.  Which is it, Mr. Jackson?  Will we or won’t we? The American people await your answer.”

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March 30, 2012 at 10:27 am

Nation’s philosophy literacy falls to all-time low

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Even lawyers, despite years of formal education, often have sub-par logic skills. Many can’t prove innocence even given that the defendant is assumed  innocent until proven guilty.

The average American knows less about philosophy now than ever before.  So say Samantha and Robert Lawson in a paper forthcoming in Teaching Philosophy.  The Lawsons reached their depressing conclusion after examining nearly 60 years of data, including information on Americans’ reading habits, formal philosophy education, and the citation of philosophers by writers outside the discipline.

“Many in academia bemoan the gap between public opinion and scientific consensus,” says Sarah Lawson.  “But the disconnect between lay and expert opinion in philosophy is just as bad.”  Lawson points to Gallop polls that indicate 40% of Americans believe God created humans in their present form and 46% believe the global warming of the past century has been due to natural causes.  By comparison, a shocking 97% of respondents in one recent poll said that objects are colored.  Most of the remaining 3% endorsed “a facile and vague ‘colors are just in your head’ theory,” says Lawson.  “Very disappointing.”  Similarly, in one of the Lawsons’ own surveys, 99% of subjects said they knew they had hands, with the remaining 1% split between “Not sure,” “Other,” and “Shut up and take me to the hospital.”

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March 23, 2012 at 7:22 am

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Psychologists search philosophical mind for bullshit detector, find “friendship deterrence system” instead

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An unfortunate philosopher and his more unfortunate interlocutor fall victim to a friendship deterrence system out of control.

Philosophers pride themselves on being “bullshit detectors,” as having the capacity to recognize and expose bullshit at first sight.  Intrigued by such self ascriptions, a team of psychologists at the University of Washington conducted a study of 37 philosophy professors and graduate students from the US and Canada. Their results will be published later this year in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  While no bullshit detector was found, they did identify what they call a “friendship deterrence system.”

The team’s lead investigator, Ian Hammersmith, explains: “We were looking for a mental module that automatically deploys in the presence of confused or unclear thought, that seizes on and exploits the dialectical weaknesses of others, and that makes the difference between an easy-going conversation partner and a hard-nosed philosopher with a killer instinct.  We didn’t find a bullshit detector, but we do believe we’ve located a friendship deterrent system, or FDS.”

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February 22, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Métaphysiciens Sans Frontières urges action against global climate change

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"They may be merely possible people, but they have actual rights," says Peter Unger, speaking with Trenton Merricks and John Hawthorne about their obligation to future generations at the annual MSF convention last week.

“We must act now to save the phenom– I mean, save the planet”

The humanitarian aid organization Métaphysiciens Sans Frontières (MSF) released an official statement on Friday urging immediate governmental action to mitigate the effects of anthropogenic climate change, marking the first time that the organization has officially taken a stance on the issue.  MSF involvement in climate change represents a major departure from the typical concerns of the organization, which have historically been limited to the provisioning of metaphysicians to areas devastated by war, famine, disease and other areas where metaphysicians are in especially short supply.

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February 22, 2012 at 4:41 pm