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Episode 65: Julian Savulescu discusses doping in sports

This month, we consider the role of enhancement in sports with Julian Savulescu, Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford. Click here to listen to our conversation.

savulescuThese days, we take it for granted that taking drugs to enhance athletic performance is wrong. After all, it’s cheating: the rules of all professional sports place strict limits on which drugs their athletes are allowed to use, and for good reason. That way, the competitions associated with these sports can remain a test of the athlete’s hard work and natural ability, rather than a test of who took the most extreme (and potentially dangerous) chemical shortcut.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on the analytic tradition

Those of you who would like to follow up on our latest episode, look no further! Here are the introduction and afterword to the volume we discussed.

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 64: James Conant and Jay Elliott discuss the analytic tradition

James Conant Jay ElliottThis month, we talk analytic philosophy with James Conant (Chester D. Tripp Professor of Humanities and Philosophy at the University of Chicago) and Jay Elliott (Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Classical Studies at Bard College). Click here to listen our conversation.

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Further reading on reference

If you’d like to read up on some of the topics from our previous episode, Michael Devitt recommends the following book:

Language and Reality, Kim Sterelny & Michael Devitt

Alternatively, if you don’t have access to a library or a bookstore, you can look at the following survey article:

Reference,” Marga Reimer

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 63: Michael Devitt discusses reference

Joining us this month to talk about a foundational topic in the philosophy of language is Michael Devitt, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York, Graduate Center. Click here to listen to our conversation with him.

devittSome animals make noises to express emotions they’re having. But other animals–notably, we humans–make utterances that do more. We do more than cry out in anger, laugh, and greet each other; we also refer to things and states of things in the world. Reference, some philosophers would argue, is the basis of our being able to convey more than just what we’re feeling inside. The fact that some of the words we utter refer to objects in the world is what allows us to convey information about the world.

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Further reading on Hegel and Kant

If you’d like to read more about Hegel’s repsonse to Kantian ethics, you might take a look at the following two books by our distinguished guest:

Sally Sedgwick, Hegel’s Critique of Kant
Sally Sedgwick, Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals: An Introduction

Posted in Further Reading.


Rule-Following, Dispositionalism, and Functionalism

In “Kripke and Functionalism” (Episode 61), Buechner describes how Kripke’s criticism of the dispositionalist response to the ‘rule-following paradox,’ found in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations,can be generalized as a criticism of functionalist accounts of mental states, the thesis that mental states are abstract computational states realized in physical objects, like a brain. Here, I’d like to give a sketch of the rule-following paradox, the dispositionalist response, and Kripke’s criticism in Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, in order to give you a clearer idea of the criticism of functionalism Buechner points to.  (For those following along at home, the crux of the rule-following paradox can be found in §§185-202 of the Investigations; Kripke’s (articulation of what he takes to be Wittgenstein’s) criticism of the dispositionalist response can be found on pages 22-35 of Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language.)

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Episode 62: Sally Sedgwick discusses Hegel’s critique of Kant

This month, we talk to Sally Sedgwick Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Affiliated Professor of Germanic Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago) about Hegel’s critique of Kantian ethics.  Click here to listen to our conversation.

sedgwickOver 200 years after Immanuel Kant published his work on ethics, it still represents one of the most influential perspectives in the field.  Kant thought that ethics was based on a fundamental, universal principle that held necessarily for all people, regardless of time or circumstance: respect the dignity of all rational nature.  What does that mean, exactly?  Something like: in deciding how to act, always do the thing which will allow you and everyone else to most fully express your freedom.  For example, don’t lie.  If you lie, you’ll be spreading misinformation around, and if misinformation is allowed to spread around, then you won’t know the things you have to know in order to act freely.  There’s something inherently self-undermining about the act of lying.

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Episode 61: Jeff Buechner discusses Kripke and functionalism

This month, we talk computers, brains, and minds with Jeff Buechner, Permanent Lecturer in Philosophy at Rutgers University, Newark.  Click here to listen to our conversation.

Jeff BuechnerBack in the 50s and 60s, a lot of philosophers were attracted to the idea that the human mind is basically a computer. Why would they find that idea attractive? Well, there was some excitement about the idea because it allowed us to characterize human minds not in terms of the stuff they’re made of (neurons, cells, brains, and so on), but in terms of what they do. Back when we were inclined to characterize human minds in terms of brains, we found it difficult to explain how e.g. I and my dog could both experience the same emotions, like fear or excitement. After all, we have totally different brains. But it seems comparably straightforward to say what a computer does in a way that abstracts over these distinctions: namely, it performs calculations. Think of a function as a rule that tells you how to transform an input into an output. In that case, you can think of what a computer does as computing the values of certain functions. For example, if you feed an adding machine the values 2 and 5, then it computes the value of the sum function for those two values, giving you 7. Thus, philosophers started calling the idea that minds are computers functionalism: if indeed the two are deeply similar, then maybe our minds are nothing more than mechanisms that compute certain functions.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on oughts

If you’re interested in learning more about our distinguished guest’s proposed analysis of ‘ought,’ check out the following two papers:

Fabrizio Cariani, ‘Epistemic and Deontic Should
Fabrizio Cariani, ‘Deontic Modals and Probabilities: One Theory to Rule Them All?

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.