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Seattle Analytic Philosophy Club Message Board › Preferences for future topics?

Preferences for future topics?

Gene L
user 19640341
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 213
In the near future, we may be doing meetups on psychopathy and equality. Here is a list of topics I would have some interest in hosting in the future (Victor has his own list). If you have any preferences or different suggestions please post in this thread.

Political philosophy topics
Liberty
Rights
Democracy

Ethics
Evolutionary ethics
Moral paradoxes
Moral luck (e.g., the drunk driver who hits someone is treated much more severely, although is just unlucky compared to the drunk driver who didn't).
Moral relativism (maybe in debate format)
Climate change (would invite a guest speaker)

Philosophy of mind
Theories of consciousness (current theories, not speculative)
Phenomenal consciousness ("what it is like")

Philosophy of science
Demarcation between science and psuedoscience
Philosophical issues related to natural selection
Philosophy of time (e.g., arrow of time, time travel, does only the present exist)
Victor M.
user 12752879
Seattle, WA
Post #: 108
Here are some topics I have in mind for future meetups. We are lucky to have Gene as a regular presenter as well. I also invite anyone who knows what analytic philosophy is, has a topic of interest in analytic philosophy, and knows something of what they are talking about, to step up and present it for discussion at one of our meetups. (It would also give us a break.) Or suggest a topic that might have a philosophical angle to it. Most perennial problems do. (In fact, it may be a tell-tale sign that a problem is ultimately philosophical that it never goes away.) Or contribute to one of the topics below.


A tentative list:

voting---why do we bother? There are some serious questions to ask about the usual reasons people give for why they vote. A little cold water just in time for November! (Here's my thought for a bumper sticker: "Vote anyway!")

zombies---in connection with qualia and consciousness, that is, of the philosophical (vegan) "mind-eating"--as opposed to the Hollywood "brain-eating"--kind. (I don't think we'll get to this before Halloween, though.)

environmental ethics---is the planet going to hell in a handbasket? Some serious scientists think it is. Are we going to do anything about it? No, it seems, say some serious philosophers. We may have neither the will nor the way.

partiality/universality---a problem that plagues some moral theories is that they want us to see all people as worthy of being treated morally the same no matter who they are. Has that ever happened? Will it? Is it even right? There is a perennial tension between our local affections and our rational aspirations in ethics.

normativity---this is the idea that the value of some things in the universe is not flat. Facts just are. Values seem to be a tint on our glasses or something in our eyes. We prefer certain state of affairs over others. Sometimes we insist on it. Sometimes we will risk life and limb and sanity over it. This is an idea, I think, at the core of morality, aesthetics, even logic itself. It is the conscious imposition of value on an otherwise pointless existence. That's the point: we insist that things have a point. To have a point they must be anchored in something of value.

Wittgenstein---considered by some as one of greatest philosophers of the last century. Ludwig Wittgenstein's ideas are not the easiest to spell out. But his method shook things up for many in philosophy. We may focus on his handling of one problem in particular: the idea of certainty.

major moral theories---these come up often when we discuss topics in practical ethics. So we should address them directly: the major contending theories are utilitarianism, deontology, virtue theory, and moral sense theory. What are they and how do they differ or resemble each other?

capital punishment---the arguments for and against: we will consider deterrence, retribution, cultural expressiveness, and the goals of legal punishment, in general.

euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide---what is the difference between active versus passive forms euthanasia? This leads us to ask questions about the moral difference between letting things happen and doing them.

genetic engineering---of the controversial germline variety where we might consciously speed up evolution in a direction of our choice.

feminism---philosophy has a longer history of being male-dominated than any other field of intellectual inquiry. Maybe that's because it's been around longer? Or because it is the least productive? Or the reverse? Or... but whatever may have been true in the past, things are changing rapidly. We will examine the impact of the rise of women in philosophy. The questions are changing. Are the answers? What is the relevance of sex and gender to philosophy? Or again the reverse?

Many more topics later...

Ted
user 36314792
Seattle, WA
Post #: 5
Hi Gene and Victor,

Thank you for the above question and lists. Particularly given the group ostensibly is analytic philosophy, I would be interested in Wittgenstein on certainty, as well as the topics on philosophy of science and philosophy of mind, and, if we can keep it somewhat rigorous, consciousness and phenomenal consciousness.

Philosophy of language, as initiated by Frege (sense & reference), through Russell & then the logical positivists to Quine & the 'cognitive turn' would also interest me a lot, if someone can do it.

Thank you both for your work and contributions to this group.

Theo
Gene L
user 19640341
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 235
Ted,

Thanks for your suggestions.

I'm not sure how to present philosophy of language in a way that would be interesting to a general audience, do you have any ideas? Perhaps you might be interested in moderating a meetup on this topic?

Gene
Bill
penny_farthing
Seattle, WA
Post #: 140
Hi Gene and Victor,

Thank you for the above question and lists. Particularly given the group ostensibly is analytic philosophy, I would be interested in Wittgenstein on certainty, as well as the topics on philosophy of science and philosophy of mind, and, if we can keep it somewhat rigorous, consciousness and phenomenal consciousness.

Philosophy of language, as initiated by Frege (sense & reference), through Russell & then the logical positivists to Quine & the 'cognitive turn' would also interest me a lot, if someone can do it.

Thank you both for your work and contributions to this group.

Theo
Hi Ted,

I share your interest in having meetings about philosophy. Maybe the group will drift back towards its original purpose.

Bill
Gene L
user 19640341
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 275
Hi Gene and Victor,

Thank you for the above question and lists. Particularly given the group ostensibly is analytic philosophy, I would be interested in Wittgenstein on certainty, as well as the topics on philosophy of science and philosophy of mind, and, if we can keep it somewhat rigorous, consciousness and phenomenal consciousness.

Philosophy of language, as initiated by Frege (sense & reference), through Russell & then the logical positivists to Quine & the 'cognitive turn' would also interest me a lot, if someone can do it.

Thank you both for your work and contributions to this group.

Theo
Hi Ted,

I share your interest in having meetings about philosophy. Maybe the group will drift back towards its original purpose.

Bill

Bill,

Could you elaborate? Do you have an idea that you want to host a meetup about?

Analytic philosophy isn't that well-defined, but at least in the Western world, is typically in seen in contrast to "Continental" philosophy and I don't think the topics we do could be considered Continental. If we simply say analytic philosophy is just what is done by philosophers working in departments typically considered analytic, then ethics and political philosophy is a substantially greater part of analytic philosophy, by amount of work, than say, philosophy of science. But the next meetup will deal with a philosophy of science topic.
Bill
penny_farthing
Seattle, WA
Post #: 141
I'm not a philosophy major and I'm not ready to organize a meeting in which we would need to address any of the core questions in modern philosophy. That idea and especially the idea of collaborating on organizing a meeting has appealed to me. From what I gather, the core modern issues include such things as meaning, ontology, language, knowledge, and normativity. Applying logic, evidence, and narrative seem entirely appropriate for the philosophical practice of clarifying concepts. Also, if one wishes to assert a fact or a theory, I expect the analytic practice to be one of either 1) building from fairly precise and explicit premises, possibly using more than one supporting argument or 2) present a hypothesis that empirical evidence might favor. Starting with a complex premise with an indeterminate number of loose ends and appealing to some anecdotes seems pretty far from analytic philosophy. However, I have spent no time within the halls of philosophy departments, so I don't actually know what philosophers do.

Although I don't think a satisfactory answer has been reached, Victor introduced some ideas that helped us consider the idea of democracy. Here specific arguments were presented and we were given the opportunity to question their implications, if any, for the concept of democracy. I think that was a successful topic.

I may not understand what you intend with the upcoming meetup on "the demarcation problem" or the past meetup on "what's wrong with the one percent". In the recent write up you seem to suggest that you think that philosophers would think it perfectly reasonable to assert how a judge should reason in deciding on a particular issue. In the other write up you quote political speech and characterize a protest movement, suggesting that there are genuine philosophical answers to questions of what should and shouldn't be matters of policy and therefore politically motivating.

The methods of studying how judges reason behind the bench, how scientists reason in the lab and in the field, and how citizens reason politically can tell us interesting things about how the world is. No initial knowledge tells us that there is an accessible view outside of those living the lives of judges, scientists, and citizens that is better at telling how judges, scientists, and citizens should reason and behave. While we might want such well formulated prescriptions for going about our business, we might also be suspicious of prescriptions coming from people inadequately informed about how the world actually is. That could be all of us most of the time. (Of course, ill informed guesses or wishful thoughts might be better advice than no advice in many situations. I don't expect that we would label ill informed guessing and wishful thoughts as sound philosophy, regardless of how useful they might be.)

I actually believe in people learning how to behave better through structured feedback from the community. At least I'm prepared to believe this. That doesn't mean that any philosophical position on morality or proper reasoning will do as well as another. In fact, it is a moral theory of sorts with the premise that we always have things to learn. That seems to undercut following what appear to be closed theories of how to behave.
Gene L
user 19640341
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 280

I may not understand what you intend with the upcoming meetup on "the demarcation problem" or the past meetup on "what's wrong with the one percent". In the recent write up you seem to suggest that you think that philosophers would think it perfectly reasonable to assert how a judge should reason in deciding on a particular issue. In the other write up you quote political speech and characterize a protest movement, suggesting that there are genuine philosophical answers to questions of what should and shouldn't be matters of policy and therefore politically motivating.

The methods of studying how judges reason behind the bench, how scientists reason in the lab and in the field, and how citizens reason politically can tell us interesting things about how the world is. No initial knowledge tells us that there is an accessible view outside of those living the lives of judges, scientists, and citizens that is better at telling how judges, scientists, and citizens should reason and behave. While we might want such well formulated prescriptions for going about our business, we might also be suspicious of prescriptions coming from people inadequately informed about how the world actually is. That could be all of us most of the time. (Of course, ill informed guesses or wishful thoughts might be better advice than no advice in many situations. I don't expect that we would label ill informed guessing and wishful thoughts as sound philosophy, regardless of how useful they might be.)


Bill,

I'd actually would largely agree with you that we should take often current practice as the baseline for our philosophizing - rather than foundational reasoning abstracted from the actual practice. That is part of the pragmatic approach I take. However, that is not how much of philosophy is actually done (because there isn't much to be done then).

I'm not going to address the issues that you raise about philosophy and policy because that was the subject of a prior thread and then as now I don't really understand what the question is. But I will briefly address the issue you raise about the upcoming meetup. The issue is that philosophers did testify about the demarcation of science in both the Arkansas and Dover trials. Judges cannot be expected to know about this issue, they rely on the testimony of experts, and philosophers were considered expert enough to give testimony in this area. Therefore the criticism - coming from other philosophers - is not so much leveled at the judicial reasoning - but the philosophical testimony which lead to the judicial reasoning.
Gene L
user 19640341
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 281
I'm not a philosophy major and I'm not ready to organize a meeting in which we would need to address any of the core questions in modern philosophy. That idea and especially the idea of collaborating on organizing a meeting has appealed to me. From what I gather, the core modern issues include such things as meaning, ontology, language, knowledge, and normativity. Applying logic, evidence, and narrative seem entirely appropriate for the philosophical practice of clarifying concepts. Also, if one wishes to assert a fact or a theory, I expect the analytic practice to be one of either 1) building from fairly precise and explicit premises, possibly using more than one supporting argument or 2) present a hypothesis that empirical evidence might favor. Starting with a complex premise with an indeterminate number of loose ends and appealing to some anecdotes seems pretty far from analytic philosophy. However, I have spent no time within the halls of philosophy departments, so I don't actually know what philosophers do.
.

Bill,

Good points. You are correct, the discussion at our meetups has little resemblance to what goes on in college philosophy classrooms, or (at a higher level) philosophy conferences. But why should it? Should a philosophy meetup open to the public resemble an actual philosophy seminar? My experience in these meetups is that if you address a defined question, the discussion quickly goes in a variety of (sometimes unrelated) directions, while in a classroom or conference, it would stay on the topic. In the classroom, everyone is expected to have read a lot of material beforehand, and everyone is careful about what they say because they don't want to look unprepared or foolish. In a conference, many of the attendees are experts. So while it would be great to present careful and detailed arguments, one would have presume that everyone has studied up beforehand and will stay on topic, which is a lot to ask for a public meetup which people attend for "fun". So I'm quite hesitant to spend the time with a single rigorous question outside the defined setting of a classroom or conference. It may not be very popular, or the discussion might end up being largely unrelated. For example, Theo suggests philosophy of language, which is indeed a core philosophical issue. But this topic is quite technical, and my impression is that a meetup dedicated to this topic would be poorly attended. I'm fine with this topic, as long as I'm not the one putting together a session which I suspect won't draw much interest. I may be wrong, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. So I, for one, look for topics which I think will have relatively broad appeal, and will provide for spirited discussion, but with at least some degree of philosophical rigor. That is how I see public philosophy. If I'm interested in philosophy as it is actually done, I read papers in the professional journals and go to conferences and talks.

Having said that, I think that public philosophy is substantially more interesting than, say, public discussion of scientific or economic topics where it turns out that no one is an expert and at best has read popular books.

I (and I don't speak for Victor but I think he might agree) are very open to having others moderate sessions. You could study up on a single well-defined topic (I think that someone without formal training could learn quite a bit of philosophy on his own) and present it that way that you think best, and if successful and well-attended, then certainly this might be a good future direction. I'd certainly be willing to help out with the moderating, but the elbow grease (the writeup and research) would have to be your own. I think that would be more helpful than asking others to do something different.
Victor M.
user 12752879
Seattle, WA
Post #: 131
Bill,

As Gene said, we are very open to anyone with some knowledge of, not necessarily a lot of background in, philosophy, leading a meetup on a philosophical topic of their choosing. You or anyone in the club is welcome to present.

I have an interest in some of the core and abstract areas of philosophy and, even though it may be a challenge presenting and making them interesting to a wider audience, that is exactly what I have in mind for future meetups.

I also have an interest in the application of philosophy or philosophical techniques to many other areas that already have the public's attention: topics in philosophy of law (capital punishment), medical ethics (genetic engineering), environmental ethics (human induced climate change), etc. Applied philosophy is largely about analyzing the concepts in other fields for rigor, coherence, and consistency. Wherever there is value or conceptual turmoil in any field, there is probably room for an analytical philosopher to contribute something. It's not so much about telling experts in their field what to believe as helping everyone get as clear as possible about what is at stake. If there really is something at stake for people outside a field, then non-experts should be in on the duscussion.

In future meetups, I plan to go back and forth between these more accessible areas and some more hard core topics in philosophy---such as problems between about consciousness and physicalism or the nature of normativity---which will inevitably lead to very abstract ideas in metaphysics such as the nature of reality.

Philosophy has its own ancient problems that never seem to go away. One of the things I am trying to do is to relate these abstract problems to the more practical problems. I think they can inform each other.

Tentatively the topic for the meetup will attempt too tackle consciousness: what it is---if it is. There are some striking positions that major philosophers have taken recently on consciousness that seem to entail such thoughts as that we are walking zombies or that there is a mysterious immaterial world out there that hovers over the material one without interacting with it or that there might actually be something it is like to be a chair, a sock, and or an electron: zombieism, ephenomenalism or panpsychism.








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