[Topics: Evolutionary Biology, Paradox of Fiction, Philosophy of Art, Psychology]
Why Stories Make Us Feel:

Colin Radford’s So-called “Paradox of Fiction” and How Art Prompts Human Emotion

 

Introduction:

In the mid-1970s, philosopher Colin Radford wrote an article entitled “How Can We be Moved by the Fate of Anna Karenina?” In the article, Radford argues that emotional responses to works of fiction are as irrational as they are familiar. He calls this the paradox of fiction. And Radford’s fellow philosophers of art have spent the decades since that article’s publication arguing with each other about the best way to disagree with him.

As a person whose own art is the writing of fiction and whose academic background is primarily in literary theory, I am particularly interested in this topic, as well as in the philosophy of art more generally. The issue I have with almost all of the responses to Colin Radford over the years is that they largely agree that there is a paradox to be solved. In this article, I will argue that Radford’s evaluation of emotional responses to fiction as a ‘paradox’ is, at best, too hasty, and, at worst, blatantly incorrect.

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[Topics: Evolutionary Biology, Paradox of Fiction, Philosophy of Art, Psychology]
Why Stories Make Us Feel:

Colin Radford’s So-called “Paradox of Fiction” and How Art Prompts Human Emotion

was last modified: May 12th, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Contractarian Ethics, Is-Ought Problem, Moral Anti-realism]
Dealing in What Is:

How the Is-Ought Problem Factors into Moral Anti-realism

 

Portrait of David Hume by Allan Ramsay - is-ought problem - David Hume - moral anti-realism

Portrait of David Hume by Allan Ramsay

The towering influence of Enlightenment philosopher David Hume has at least partially informed all of my articles across this past month (and, more indirectly, all of the articles before then as well). And although The Gemsbok’s artist, M.R.P., did a sketch of Hume for the article two weeks ago on infallible foreknowledge, that homage would perhaps have fit better next to today’s article, which will consider a topic often attributed to David Hume—if not as its originator, at least as its first notable, direct, and clear articulator. The topic in question is the is-ought problem (also known as Hume’s Law).

A few of my readers, discussing my article on the exclusively functional objectivity of our socially evolved morality in a forum thread, have raised the is-ought problem as an objection to some of the ideas presented there. While I think that careful readers of that article will already have a fair idea of my response to such objections, I imagine it would be helpful to provide something more explicit. While I would not deny the existence and importance of moral oughts as such, I would seek to offer a moral anti-realist, contractarian account of what oughts ought to be.

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[Topics: Contractarian Ethics, Is-Ought Problem, Moral Anti-realism]
Dealing in What Is:

How the Is-Ought Problem Factors into Moral Anti-realism

was last modified: January 15th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Empiricism, Pragmatism, Rationalism]
Epistemological Compromise:

On the Compatibility of Rationalism and Empiricism

 

René Descartes Sketch by M.R.P. - epistemology - empiricism - rationalism - pragmatism

Sketch by M.R.P.

This will be another post about two apparent philosophical opposites. And just like my considerations of moral realism and anti-realism; consequentialism and deontology; and free will and determinism, I will be arguing that there is to some degree a worthwhile common ground on which philosophers can safely tread. As you’ve probably noticed, the apparent opposition for this article is that between two topics in epistemology (the study of knowledge), which both confront the question of knowledge’s basis and origin: rationalism and empiricism.

Roughly speaking, rationalists hold that some or all of our knowledge is known independent of and prior to sense experience, whereas empiricists hold that some or all of our knowledge comes solely from sense experience. For a far-reaching and specific introduction to these topics in epistemology, see this encyclopedia entry; for my (hopefully somewhat pithier) thoughts on these topics, read on.

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[Topics: Empiricism, Pragmatism, Rationalism]
Epistemological Compromise:

On the Compatibility of Rationalism and Empiricism

was last modified: January 3rd, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Determinism, Foreknowledge, Free Will, Infallibility]
The Foreseeable Future:

The Implications of Demonstrable Infallible Foreknowledge with Respect to Free Will

 

David Hume Sketch by M.R.P. - infallible foreknowledge - free will - determinism

Sketch by M.R.P.

Introduction:

As promised at the end of my last post, this post explores a question which has plagued philosophers of metaphysics for millenia: can an action be demonstrably and infallibly foreknowable, and yet free? Although there are mountains of highly technical literature on this and related questions—with infinitely debatable minutiae (and this question’s own camps of more esoteric compatibilists and incompatibilists)—I will be providing a much less formal response to the question. For that reason, I will be trying to explain much of the typical philosophical jargon I use with common, everyday expressions. In the interest of this clarity, I would like to note that any use of the words ‘compatibilism’ and ‘incompatibilism’ below refer strictly to the sense in which they were used last week, concerning determinism and free will (rather than concerning infallible foreknowledge and free will).

By presenting my own account of an answer to this question in this way, I hope to accomplish two things. First, I have been told that my articles, which are intended for accessibility, have remained difficult for readers who are truly new to philosophy; I hope that the ideas seem more accessible in this format, and thus interested readers will be able to pursue the aforementioned mountains of literature at a later date. Second, I hope to help further clarify my perceptual model of free will sketched briefly in the prior post, and to come at my notion of the ‘inescapable practical illusion of free will’ from another angle.

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[Topics: Determinism, Foreknowledge, Free Will, Infallibility]
The Foreseeable Future:

The Implications of Demonstrable Infallible Foreknowledge with Respect to Free Will

was last modified: December 9th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Compatibilism, Determinism, Free Will, Philosophy of Language]
Free Will Twice Defined:

On the Linguistic Conflict of Compatibilism and Incompatibilism

 

Arthur Schopenhauer Sketch by M.R.P. - compatibilism - free will - determinism

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.
[High-res prints available here]

Introduction:

“Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills” (Schopenhauer 531).

Attentive readers of last week’s post in this series will have noted that its discussion of meaning, while relevant to the meaningfulness of moral action, is more broadly applicable to all philosophical discussions of meaning. Using that article as a transitional moment, I will now move away from discussing moral action directly and, at least for a time, toward discussing human action more generally.

One of the most persistent debates across the history of philosophy, when it comes to human behavior and morality, is that of whether determinism or free will is true. But in order to get at that debate, I will instead today be confronting an intimately related debate of roughly equal age, that of whether determinism and free will are compatible or not. Many laypeople are casual incompatibilists, and would be quick to dismiss this latter debate as so much sophistry, feeling that determinism and free will are intractable opposites. But various different versions of compatibilism have had some strong defenders over the years, including Thomas Aquinas, David Hume, and the majority of professional philosophers in the world today. So what is compatibilism, and how does it respond to incompatibilism?

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[Topics: Compatibilism, Determinism, Free Will, Philosophy of Language]
Free Will Twice Defined:

On the Linguistic Conflict of Compatibilism and Incompatibilism

was last modified: June 20th, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski