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Episode 99: Steven Nadler discusses Spinoza on freedom

This month, we delve back into the early modern period with Steven Nadler, William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy, Evjue-Bascom Professor of the Humanities, and Weinstein-Bascom Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Baruch Spinoza is known for his views about how the mind and body are the same thing (see our Episode 70), and for coming up with a completely non-anthropomorphic notion of God. But these ideas were really in the service of his moral philosophy, and that’s our focus for this episode. Like Aristotle, Spinoza is most interested the difference between being a good person and being a bad person, rather than the difference between doing something wrong and doing something right. Freedom, rationality, power, and virtue get identified with each other. He also thinks that all our actions are determined, which you might think means nobody ever really does anything freely. But strikingly, he seems to think it’s possible to recover a new notion of freedom that’s totally compatible with a person’s actions being determined. That is, there can still be a difference between something you did for the right reason, understanding why you did it, and something you did just because you were pressured into doing it without understanding why–even though the laws of physics kind of set it in stone what’s going to happen in the future.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on credibility

If you’d like to delve further into Jennifer Lackey’s views about credibility excesses, she has generously made her excellent paper ‘Credibility and the Distribution of Epistemic Goods‘ available for you to download.

Enjoy!
Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 98: Jennifer Lackey discusses credibility

This month, we talk to Jennifer Lackey (Northwestern University) about what it means to be too trustful of another person. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Jennifer Lackey For some time, feminist authors have been concerned about the fact that women tend to be believed less than men, simply because they’re women. The mere fact that someone is a woman should have of course have no bearing on whether you believe them–you should believe them if what they’re saying is plausible and well supported by evidence, and you should disbelieve them if what they’re saying is implausible and unsupported by evidence. This intuition has led a lot of people to conclude that the only basis for determining whether you should believe another person is whether what they’re saying is plausible and well supported. It’s a good intuition, but Jennifer Lackey argues that that can’t be the whole picture. For instance, what if I’m in a classroom, and I am given a level of credibility that exactly corresponds to my actual reliability, but everyone else in the classroom is treated as a super-reliable mega-genius? It seems like that’s still going to be bad in all sorts of ways, and in particular it’s still going to be bad for me, even though I’m getting the level of credibility that I deserve as an individual.

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Posted in Podcast.


Recommended reading on time biases

Meghan Sullivan’s book on time biases is due out any moment now. (Of course, according to her argument, we should feel indifferent to when it comes out, but I can’t help but feel anticipation!)

If, like me, you are having trouble resisting the pull of that particular time bias, check out her and Preston Greene’s excellent article from last year that explores a number of the arguments we discussed.

Against Time Bias,’ Preston Greene and Meghan Sullivan

Happy reading!
Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 97: Meghan Sullivan discusses time biases

This month, Meghan Sullivan (University of Notre Dame) urges us to consider how we feel about the past, present, and future. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Remember the marshmallow test? Back in the 1970s, some psychological experiments suggested that people who opted to delay short-term rewards if it meant a bigger reward in the future were likely to have more successful lives. These days, we’re all prepared to believe that we should try to ignore that voice inside our heads telling us to prefer instant gratification, and instead save up for the future, like the grasshopper in Aesop’s fable. But Meghan Sullvian thinks that is just the tip of the iceberg. Caring more about pleasant experiences when they’re in the here and now, she thinks, is just a special case of a more general phenomenon: namely, caring differently about whether something happens based only on when it happens. And if we recognize that that more general bias is irrational, then we’re on the hook for way more than just saving up for the future. We should instead strive to be temporally neutral. So for example, a temporally neutral person wouldn’t prefer a traumatic experience that already happened over a traumatic experience that was coming up next week.

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on the role of belief in reasoning

To do a deep dive into what I discussed with Nic Koziolek, check out the following papers:

Inferring as a Way of Knowing,’ Nic Koziolek
Coming to Believe,’ Nic Koziolek
Belief, Judgment, and Rational Explanation,’ Nic Koziolek

He has a treasure trove of other work up on his website, which I would encourage you to visit.

Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 96: Nic Koziolek discusses the role of belief in reasoning

This month, we talk to Nic Koziolek (Auburn University) about some big, meaty topics, including but not limited to thought, judgment, belief, reasoning, and knowledge. Click here to listen to our conversation.

We engage in reasoning on a constant basis. Here’s an example of the kind of reasoning I engage in all the time: they’re working on the water main, my car is parked right in front of the water main, I want them to be able to work on the water main, so I guess I have to go move it. Whenever you combine different things you know and ‘project’ from them onto a new thing that you end up learning, you’re reasoning. Our guest this month is interested in the fact that there are different ways this process can go wrong. There might be a conclusion you should draw, but you fail to draw it. That’s one kind of mistake. Another kind of mistake happens when you go ahead and draw some conclusion, but it’s the wrong conclusion. It may seem simple, but coming up with an account of what belief and reasoning are that neatly explains how you can reason incorrectly in those two different ways is a lot trickier than it looks.

Join us as our guest navigates these deep and interesting philosophical waters!

Matt Teichman

Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on the genealogy of color

Those of you who would like to follow up on the history of color concepts can do no better than to check out Zed Adams’ fascinating book on the topic!

On the Genealogy of Color, Zed Adams

Happy reading.
Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.


Episode 95: Zed Adams discusses the genealogy of color

This month, we talk to Zed Adams (New School for Social Research) about colors like red, blue, and green. Click here to listen to our conversation.

What is the color red? Is it a physical property of certain chemicals–the fact that they tend to reflect light with a wavelength of about 670 nm and absorb the rest? Or does the subjective experience of seeing something that looks red figure somehow into the definition of what it is to be red? Believe it or not, it is possible to produce a painting that looks like a blank red canvas in daylight but a big X in artificial light, because of the different ways slightly different shades of red paint respond to different kinds of light. So are the two reds in the painting the same or different? Kind of hard to say, since the both conditions are considered equally ‘standard’ or ‘normal.’

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Posted in Podcast.


Further reading on fictional names

If you’d like to follow up on our interview with Zsofia Zvolenszky, check out her paper:

Fictional Characters, Mythical Objects, and the Phenomenon of Inadvertent Creation, Zsofia Zvolenszky

Happy reading!
Matt Teichman

Posted in Further Reading.