[Topics: Biology, Ethics, Logic, Fallacy]
It’s 1483 and People Still Think This Way?

What’s Wrong with the Current-year-based Shaming of Ideas and Practices, and How to Salvage It

 

Introduction:

Detail of Woodcut by P. Wohlgemuth, Adapted by André Koehne - current-year argument - Anti-vaxxers and vaccines - logic and argumentation

Detail of Woodcut by P. Wohlgemuth,
adapted by André Koehne

Imagine that someone in a disagreement with someone else opines that, “It is insane that you still think that way, in this day and age.” Now imagine that an individual on a television program exclaims, “How is this still happening?! It’s [current year]!” These two sentiments might strike you in one of a few ways. Perhaps one of them seems more plausible than the other, or you feel that one or both could be appropriate in some cases, but not others. Conversely, it may strike you that neither of these is a meaningful notion.

I intend to argue in this article, however, that both statements could be logical and that both statements could be fallacious, depending on the context. These are both forms of the ‘current-year argument.’ And, indeed, my reason for writing this article is that—while I am sympathetic to those who recognize the philosophical error being committed by most who use such arguments—I notice that folks often go too far in shooting down the concept of current-year-based-shaming of ideas and practices, when there are contexts that would make such exhortations logically sound.

First, I will give a precise account, with attention to the philosophical fundamentals of logic and argumentation, as to why these current-year statements are often (perhaps the majority of the time) meaningless and fallacious. Second, I will switch gears and describe cases wherein the statements could be legitimate, appropriate, and logically consistent.

Continue reading

[Topics: Biology, Ethics, Logic, Fallacy]
It’s 1483 and People Still Think This Way?

What’s Wrong with the Current-year-based Shaming of Ideas and Practices, and How to Salvage It

was last modified: February 16th, 2018 by Daniel Podgorski

{Guest Post} [Topics: Ethics, Philosophy of Language, Terrorism]

Testing Terrorism:

On Stephen Nathanson, Michael Walzer, and Terrorism in Relation to Conventional Warfare

 

Introduction:

Venn Diagram - Terrorism and Conventional Warfare - Stephen Nathanson, Michael WalzerTerrorism and conventional warfare are thought to inhabit two close yet separate spheres. Accolades and patriotic flags romanticize the grim reality of conventional warfare, while face masks and frightening rhetoric emphasize the deadly image of terrorism.

The term ‘terrorism’ typically elicits an intense emotional response, tainting the discussion of its ethics, and preventing understanding. The first misconception which must be made clear is that terrorism is not a separate phenomenon from  conventional warfare; terrorism must be considered at the very least an outgrowth of conventional warfare, understood as an adaptive strategy which reflects desperation.

I posit that terrorism is simply another form of warfare. If the preceding statement is true, the ethics of conventional warfare will apply to terrorism. If both conventional warfare and terrorism hold the same moral implications, one cannot discount one without discounting the other.

Continue reading

{Guest Post} [Topics: Ethics, Philosophy of Language, Terrorism]

Testing Terrorism:

On Stephen Nathanson, Michael Walzer, and Terrorism in Relation to Conventional Warfare

was last modified: August 25th, 2016 by Avi Gupta

[Topics: Contractarian Ethics, Culture, Moral Anti-realism, Morality]
Common Phenomena:

A Brief Introduction to Moral Anti-realist Contractarian Ethics

 

Introduction:

Shelly Kagan - contractarian ethics - society, intersubjectivity, functional objectivityBack near the beginning of November, I wrote an article on the is-ought problem and moral anti-realism. In that article, I concluded that the moral anti-realist is free to continue speaking of moral oughts as long as their conception of an ought is something rather like a phenomenologically considered is. Humans without moral realism, I concluded, would still have means for an ethics that is contractarian in nature.

This contractarian ethical system would result from an understanding of morality which is in part functionally objective and entirely intersubjective. If you’re not sure what I mean by ‘functionally objective’ or ‘intersubjective,’ don’t worry; I’ll cover each of them in turn right now.

Continue reading

[Topics: Contractarian Ethics, Culture, Moral Anti-realism, Morality]
Common Phenomena:

A Brief Introduction to Moral Anti-realist Contractarian Ethics

was last modified: December 23rd, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Culture, Epistemology, Philosophy of Language, Truth]
Truth and Lies in a Genealogical Sense:

Tracing Friedrich Nietzsche’s Discussion of Truth through his Life (by Considering Two of his Texts)

 

Friedrich Nietzsche Sketch by M.R.P. - On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense - On the Genealogy of Morality

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

Introduction:

Friedrich Nietzsche’s writing is constantly concerned with tracing the development of ontological and epistemological phenomena as the result of interactions among humans. His conclusions often paint the developments he observes as being rendered inevitable by the nature of human will, knowledge, and consciousness. Because of this fascination with the developmental history of concepts, Nietzsche is always in the mode of thinking which may be termed genealogical.

Indeed, well before his explicit discourse tracing the source of intellectual constructs and moral underpinnings in On the Genealogy of Morality, the early Nietzsche is thinking along the same lines, if not in precisely the same terms, in, for instance, his essay, “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense.” Despite the aforementioned observable inevitability in Nietzsche’s account for the rise and implementation of the concept of truth, Nietzsche is never forgiving or conciliatory toward humanity for its unwillingness to discard their basic assumptions, nor even to acknowledge them as such. This is in spite of Nietzsche’s apparent awareness, as evidenced in Ecce Homo, that he is a singular thinker whose example and legacy will be no small task to parse. Yet the treatment of truth in these texts is not identical.

Whereas in the earlier essay Nietzsche is more interested in the exact method by which truth is constructed, the later work underscores instead the dangers of appealing to truth as the justification for one’s pursuits; meanwhile, both works are concerned with envisioning the sort of person who faces reality without traditional truth as its basis, in the former termed the “intuitive man” and in the latter the “thinkers” (contrasted with adherents to an ascetic ideal).

Continue reading

[Topics: Culture, Epistemology, Philosophy of Language, Truth]
Truth and Lies in a Genealogical Sense:

Tracing Friedrich Nietzsche’s Discussion of Truth through his Life (by Considering Two of his Texts)

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

[Topics: Existentialism, Morality]
Freedom is Not a Humanism:

Responding to the Ethical System in Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism”

 

Jean-Paul Sartre Sketch by M.R.P. - Existentialism is a Humanism criticism - freedom

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

Introduction:

Whatever your personal estimation of his ideas, it is nevertheless true that Jean-Paul Sartre ushered in one of those rare moments in human history when a school of contemporary philosophy was highly integrated into the zeitgeist. And while I personally find Sartre’s contributions to literature (i.e. his plays, short stories, and novels) to be so exceptional as to far outweigh his contributions to philosophy, I do find value in both.

The work by him which is most likely to have been encountered by any student of philosophy, however, is not one of his literary works; instead, it is his early speech-turned-essay “Existentialism is a Humanism.” This is an essay I generally like. After all, I like existentialism; I would not reject the label of existentialist for aspects of my own philosophical convictions. But, that said, I feel that after starting strong Sartre ventures somewhat off-base in “Existentialism is a Humanism” when he nears what is ostensibly his thesis. His initial responses to myopic detractors are useful and well-composed, but his goal (and the intention stated by his title) of showing that existentialism provides a morality of maximising freedom seems misguided.

Continue reading

[Topics: Existentialism, Morality]
Freedom is Not a Humanism:

Responding to the Ethical System in Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism”

was last modified: June 16th, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski