Friday, October 01, 2010

Philosophers Gently Debating

Philosophy TV is a welcome addition to the web, and I look forward to watching more installments.

I watched Craig Callender and Jonathan Schaffer debate whether metaphysical debates have substance/merit, given recent criticism from other quarters, particularly from philosphers of science. Callender took the skeptical position while Schaffer took the defense. (I posted on a Callender paper on this topic here; a post which touches on some of Schaffer's metaphysical interests is here).

It was a thoughtful discussion, but both gentlemen were so exceedingly polite and deferential, that the points of disagreement took a long time to bring out. Schaffer had a bit easier time being the defender of metaphysics (merelogical examples were the focus): partly this was because Callender doesn't himself consider all metaphysics to be irrelevent, and also because it is very hard to have a detailed account of what's good and what's bad. For instance, asserting that a debate is too unconnected to science isn't sufficient, since we don't know that the debates couldn't have relevance in the future.

Despite an hour and a half, they didn't get to discuss the key issue of whether our modal intuitions should be considered reliable. Anyway, I'll be checking in on other episodes.

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