Thursday, March 17, 2011

Upcoming GPPC-Sponsored Events

A number of exciting events sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium are coming up in the next few weeks.

A Philosophy on Film Series beginning Thursday March 31st and continuing for the two following Thursdays. This will be at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. Each week a film will be presented and then discussed by a professor from a GPPC school.

The GPPC Community Lecture Series in Cherry Hill NJ on Saturday afternoon, April 2nd, features "The Uses of Literature" with two talks by GPPC professors and discussion.

At Drexel University on Saturday afternoon, April 9th is the annual GPPC Public Issues Forum with the topic "Philosophy, Education & Life".

Please spread the word to anyone in the area who might be interested.  Check the GPPC website for details. I'm also available if you need more information (contact info. via clicking my profile).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Russellian Monism and Dispositional/Categorical Properties

{Note: this is a draft of some work that I might develop further with add'l research at some point. Comments or suggestions are welcome.}

I’m gratified that the position in Philosophy of Mind known as Russellian Monism (also known as Russellian theory of mind and probably the best developed account of neutral monism) has gotten more attention in recent years. However, the terminology typically used to describe the position today is different from Bertrand Russell’s, as presented in his 1927 work, The Analysis of Matter. This post discusses some of the issues involved, and briefly looks at how some stances in contemporary debates would fit with the original account.

In a recent post on the Brains blog, Richard Brown (referencing an online discussion he had with David Chalmers) said: “RM [Russellian Monism] is the view that the dispositional properties talked about by physics have as their categorical base phenomenal or protophenomenal properties.” While descriptions vary, the reference to dispositional and categorical properties is common. In his book, Ignorance and Imagination, Daniel Stoljar says the position is a combination of two theses. First: “…that physical theory tells us only about dispositional properties.” And: “The second thesis we need to consider is that the dispositional properties of physical objects do require categorical grounds; that is, for all dispositional properties, there must be a non-dispositional property... (p.110)”

Now, Russell never uses discusses properties at all, and certainly not dispositional or categorical properties specifically! These are terms which have emerged in the more recent debates of analytic philosophy. So, how well is the intent of RM captured when using this terminology? (Please again note I’m only speaking of Russell’s work in The Analysis of Matter).

Brief summary of RM

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Limiting Possible Evils

1. Multiverse Theodicies

Why would God, assumed to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, create a world which is suffused with gratuitous suffering? There are many responses given by theists, but I’ve thought the most persuasive one was an appeal to a theistic multiverse. I was reminded of this strategy by reading Bradley Monton’s draft paper titled “Against Multiverse Theodicies” (warning – Word document). It was a helpful paper to review because in it he describes various approaches that have been taken in the literature, on his way to formulating an argument against them. There are many variants, but a typical version of the theodicy says that God maximizes total value by creating infinite universes, not just the one we observe, and all we need to accept about our own world is that it is minimally worth creating by the deity -- perhaps the good it embodies just barely outweighs the bad. Then can imagine that the countless superior worlds of which we can conceive also exist. Terrible worlds unrelieved by sufficient good would not be created.

Now, Monton’s paper argues the strategy doesn’t work: The key to his argument has to do with God’s ability to create duplicate and near duplicate universes (without end). To greatly simplify, he says that instead of creating a world with a given amount of suffering, God could create duplicates of better worlds and create more aggregate good. (A counterargument, he says, would have to involve a successful defense of Leibniz’ principle of the Identity of indiscernibles).

I recommend the paper, although I’m not going to engage his argument here. Rather I bring this up because, while I’m not a theist, the issues raised in this discussion bear on concerns I have about my own views.

2. The Modal Realist’s “Problem” of Evil