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Episode 57: Julia Annas discusses virtue ethics

This month we sit down with Julia Annas, Regents Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona, to talk about virtue ethics. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Today we’re used to thinking of ethics as the study of how to act in certain situations. Given any particular hypothetical scenario, what would be the right thing for you to do? If your friend wants you to stay up late to help him study for an exam, but you yourself need to go to bed early in order to get a good night’s sleep for the exam, what do you do? This is the sort of thing we usually have in mind when it comes to ethics: ethicists devise sophisticated theories that tell us the most general laws of good behavior.


Posted in Podcast.

Further reading on corporate rights and responsibilities

If you’re interested to learn more about Philip Pettit’s views on corporate rights and responsibilities, take a look at this 2007 paper:

Philip Pettit, ‘Responsibility Incorporated

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.

Episode 56: Philip Pettit discusses corporate rights and responsibilities

This month, we sit down with Philip Pettit to discuss some of his work on whether corporations have rights. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Philip PettitMuch of what goes on in today’s world is the work of corporations, which command far more money and power than any individual person can. And that already puts us in challenging philosophical territory. Can corporations *do* things? Can a corporation be held responsible for what it does? Not too long ago, there were strong legal barriers to holding corporations responsible for their actions. But these days, most of us seem to think that a company should be held to account when it commits acts of negligence. (Recall the BP spill from 2010, where it was generally agreed that the company should indeed be held responsible for the disaster.)


Posted in Podcast.

Further reading on paradoxes of consistency

To see Branden Fitelson’s notion of coherence spelled out in full detail, you can read the following two papers:

Branden Fitelson and Kenny Easwaran, “Accuracy, Coherence, and Evidence.”
Branden Fitelson, Rachel Briggs, Fabrizio Cariani, and Kenny Easwaran, “Individual Coherence and Group Coherence.”

For an interesting extension of that framework to cover cases where a person suspends judgment, you can take a look at:

Kenny Easwaran, “Dr. Truthlove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Bayesian Probabilities.”

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.

Episode 55: Branden Fitelson discusses paradoxes of consistency

This month we are delighted to have Branden Fitelson back for his second appearance on the program.  The topic was some recent work he has been doing with Rachel Briggs, Fabrizio Cariani, and Kenny Easwaran on paradoxes of consistency.  Click here to listen to our conversation.

Branden Fitelson

Imagine you’re a scientist, and you publish a huge book presenting the results of your research over the past decade. You are exact in your methods, and to the best of your knowledge, everything you claim in the book is true. Nonetheless, you write the following in the preface: ‘Any mistakes in this book are mine and mine alone.’ Why think that it contains mistakes? Well, it almost certainly does; human beings are fallible, and every scientific book ever written contains some mistake or other. These things are difficult to write! But this raises an interesting paradox. On the one hand, if I were to list all the claims in the book, one by one, for each one, you would say that it was true. On the other, you readily acknowledge that there must be a mistake in there somewhere. It’s impossible for both of these things to be true: either every claim in the book is true, or at least one of the claims in the book is false. So what gives? Are you contradicting yourself?


Posted in Podcast.

Further reading on Frege and logicism

Interested in following up on our discussion with Patricia Blanchette? Take a look at the following material on the debate between Gottlob Frege and David Hilbert:

The Frege-Hilbert Controversy,’ Patricia Blanchette
Frege and Hilbert on Consistency,’ Patricia Blanchette

If you’re curious to take a look at what Frege wrote about the logicist project, his Foundations of Arithmetic is a wonderful read and readily accessible to those without a background in mathematics:

Foundations of Arithmetic, Gottlob Frege

Happy reading!

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.

Episode 54: Patricia Blanchette discusses Frege’s logicism

This month, we sit down with Patricia Blanchette to discuss the work of Gottlob Frege, one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century.  Click here to listen to our conversation.

Patricia BlanchetteWe saw in our episode on the philosophy of mathematics how difficult it was to say what numbers are.  What is the number three, and how do I come to know things about it?  (Like that it’s odd, that it’s prime, that it’s the lowest number that’s both odd and prime, that it’s a factor of 135, and so on for all the things a mathematician might teach you about it.)  Frege thought we could make some headway on these questions if we could show that arithmetic was really just complicated logic.  And one way of demonstrating that arithmetic is just complicated logic is by showing that you can translate any statement about arithmetic into a statement about logic without changing its meaning.


Posted in Podcast.

Further reading on Wittgenstein and formal semantics

For those of you interested in following up on our previous episode, Martin Stokhof has a number of papers on the topics we discussed.

On Wittgenstein and formal semantics, you can check out:

The Architecture of Meaning: Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and Formal Semantics,’ Martin Stokhof
Formal Semantics and Wittgenstein: An Alternative,’ Martin Stokhof

On the distinction between abstraction and idealization, see:

Abstractions and Idealisations: The Construction of Modern Linguistics,’ Martin Stokhof & Michiel van Lambalgen

And on the philosophical import of formal languages, take a look at:

Hand or Hammer?  On Formal and Natural Languages in Semantics,’ Martin Stokhof

Posted in Further Reading.

Episode 53: Martin Stokhof discusses formal semantics and Wittgenstein

This month, we talk semantics with Martin Stokhof, Professor of Philosophy of Language at the Institute for Logic, Language, and Computation in Amsterdam.  Click here to listen to our conversation.

Martin StokhofFormal semanticists are in the business of spelling out the rules by which the meaning of a sentence in English (or French, or Spanish, or some other human language) are derived from the words in it and the way they’re put together.  You might think this is pretty straightforward, but see our interview with Hans Kamp for some nice examples of how the enterprise gets tricky rather quickly.  Basically, the issue is that it’s very complicated, in practice, to model the messiness of human language in a super precise way–in a way that, for example, a computer could understand.


Posted in Podcast.

Elucidations is now on Twitter!

Check out our new Twitter feed at @ElucidationsPod. We’d love to hear your comments/thoughts/suggestions.

Posted in Announcements.