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Episode 94: Zsofia Zvolenszky discusses fictional names

This month, we talk to Zsofia Zvolenszky (Eötvös University) about fictional characters and places. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Han Solo and Luke Skywalker sneak on board the Death Star and attempt to rescue to Princess Leia. The escape plan goes awry, and pretty soon it looks more like Princess Leia is rescuing them. That was me summarizing the plot of Star Wars: A New Hope . But what was I talking about, exactly? We know that Princess Leia doesn’t actually exist–she’s a character that George Lucas made up. But she also isn’t the same thing as, for example, a person I made up a lie about as part of a con. Anyone who hears the above plot synopsis knows that I’m talking about a fictional character, and agrees to play along with me in pretending that this person exists, so that we can all enjoy the movie. The difficult question is: what does it mean to ‘play along’ in this way?

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Posted in Podcast.


Episode 93: Barry Lam discusses obligations after death

This month, we talk about whether we owe the dead anything with Barry Lam. Barry Lam is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Vassar College, Story Lab Fellow at Duke University, and creator, producer, and lead host of Hi-Phi Nation, an exciting new philosophy podcast that turns stories into ideas. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Barry LamIf your relative asks you to do something just before passing away, chances are you’ll feel like you owe it to them, or to their memory, to do it. Especially if it’s a small thing. But are there any limits to how far an obligation like this can extend? Here’s a simple case that reveals those limits: if your relative asked you to steal money from someone who was impoverished, you’d probably refuse to honor their wishes.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on epistemic oppression

If you’d like to do a deep dive into some of our esteemed guest’s writings on epistemic oppression, here are links to some of her papers on the topic:

Conceptualizing Epistemic Oppression,’ Kristie Dotson
A Cautionary Tale: On Limiting Epistemic Oppression,’ Kristie Dotson
Tracking Epistemic Violence, Tracking Practices of Silencing,’ Kristie Dotson

Happy reading!
Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 92: Kristie Dotson discusses epistemic oppression


Note: this episode was recorded in 2016, prior to the US presidential election. Kristie Dotson will be coming back in a future episode to give us her latest thoughts on these topics in light of recent developments in US politics!

This month, we talk to Kristie Dotson (Michigan State University) about how people’s ability to gather and share information can be negatively impacted under oppressive social systems. Click here to listen to our conversation.

minidotsonWe human beings rely on each other for most of our information. I think I can say I know that Tanzania exists–in fact, according to our records, someone from Tanzania has listened to this podcast–even though I’ve never flown out there myself to check. How do I know? I get information about what’s happening there by a mix of historical records, news reporting, testimony from people who have been there, and even testimony from people who come from Tanzania. What’s more, this information about what’s happening in the world that I learned from testimony is often of crucial importance, both for me and other people. It affects my voting decisions, to be sure, but it can also impact my day-to-day decisions.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on counterfactuals

Hello, everyone! Hope you’re enjoying the new year.

If you enjoyed our episode on counterfactuals and would like to learn more about Paolo Santorio’s causal network theory, check out the following paper:

Interventions in Premise Semantics,’ Paolo Santorio

For a broader overview of casual network approaches to counterfactuals, the following paper by R.A. Briggs is a wonderful start:

Interventionist Counterfactuals,’ R.A. Briggs

Happy reading!
Matt

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 91: Paolo Santorio discusses counterfactuals

This month, we talk to Paolo Santorio about counterfactuals, also known as statements of the form ‘If A were, then B would be.’ Click here to listen to our conversation.

Paolo SantorioCounterfactual statements, those funny conditional statements where the word ‘would’ comes after the word ‘then,’ play an absolutely central rule both in everyday commonsense reasoning and in our more formal scientific theorizing. Consider, for instance, how we talk about history. If Archduke Ferdiand hadn’t been assassinated, World War I wouldn’t have been fought. If the earth hadn’t been struck by an asteroid during the Mesozoic era, the dinosaurs wouldn’t have gone extinct. If I had lingered at home to watch the finale of my favorite TV show, I would have missed the bus this morning. Etc. We use these kinds of statements to describe our beliefs about laws or patterns in nature, or perhaps to say something about what someone can and can’t reasonably expect.

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Posted in Podcast.


Episode 90: Ásta Sveinsdóttir discusses social construction

This month, we talk to Ásta Sveinsdóttir (San Francisco State University) about social-institutional entities, like money, the economy, political borders, nation states, and, interestingly, categories of people. Click here to listen to our conversation.

For a while now, philosophers have been interested in the status of things like money. A $5 bill has the purchasing power it has not because of any intrinsic features that belong to the paper it’s printed on, but because we all agree to treat it as having that purchasing power. By treating liquid currency as something that can be exchanged for lattes or ice cream cones, we confer on it the property of being something that can be exchanged for these things, but not for many other things (like a car, or the latest iPhone). That doesn’t mean this purchasing power isn’t real, or that it isn’t objectively true or false that a $5 bill currently has the purchasing power it has. Quite the contrary–these are verifiable/falsifiable objective facts that we can discuss. But it does mean that our attitudes are playing an special role in making such facts obtain. By contrast, the fact that Saturn is more massive than the planet Earth is a fact that does not obtain in virtue of what anyone thinks about anything. Saturn just is the size that it is, independently of how we treat it as being.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on language universals

For a further taste of our guest’s thoughts on the theory of universal grammar, the following dialogue is an incredibly fun read:

Language: a Dialogue,’ John Collins

I also heartily recommend that you visit his website and his academia.edu page, where he’s got lots of great papers on some of the most central issues in the philosophy of language and foundations of linguistics.

Happy reading!
Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 89: John Collins discusses language universals

This time, we have the privilege of talking to John Collins (University of East Anglia) as we shift our attention to the human language faculty. Click here to listen to our conversation.

collinsSmallHuman beings are the only animal in the world that can natively acquire a language like English, French, Czech, Nahuatl, Yoruba, or Tamil. Take any baby, raise it among caretakers who speak language X, and it will arrive at perfect native mastery of X as early as age 7. If you try the same experiment with a baby walrus or even a baby chimp, you’ll find the results are way less impressive. This is because the human mind has some intrinsic features that enable it to learn languages by osmosis, as it were, in this intuitive manner.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on snap judgments

For those who are interested in following up on our previous episode, you can take a look at Section 5 of the following paper:

Knowledge In and Out of Context

The following papers by our guest are also a really great read!

Default Reasoning: Jumping to Conclusions and Knowing When to Think Twice
A Rationale for Reliabilism

Happy reading!
Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.