Monday, April 25, 2005

The Turing Test Page

The Turing Test Page
Useful page with bibliography on the Turing Test--and fun: scroll down to "talk to them" for links to chatterbots you can talk to, including Eliza, and many, many more. This site is maintained by a UCSD grad student in cog sci. Highly recommended.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Zombies on the web

Zombies on the web

Hollywood zombies, Haitian zombies and philosophical zombies with pictures and extensive links to zombie resources on the web. Check it out!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Parfit online!

We have online access to the full text of all Oxford University Press books in print--including Parfit's Reasons and Persons. To take advantage of this fabulous resource go to Oxford Scholarship Online and search for "Parfit" (or any other OUP author if you're interested). Hit the link to the section of Reasons and Persons on personal identity, click on full text and when prompted login is "seirtrials" and pw is "spring05"


Saturday, April 09, 2005

Thought Experiments

Thought Experiments
Thought experiments are "devices of the imagination used to investigate nature." They figure prominently in discussions of the problem of personal identity and other related issues: we imagine the statue and the clay, the individual whose brain hemispheres are transplanted into two different bodies, Locke's Day Man and Night Man and so on.

Lots of the scenarios that figure in philosophical thought experiments aren't, from the scientific point of view, possible. But that is not to say that philosophy is either unscientific or presents a point of view that's at odds with science. Philosophy is simply asking questions of a different sort--questions about what is "logically possible," and about how to understand concepts that figure in our ordinary way of viewing the world.

Thought experiments have also played a role in the sciences. For a discussion, hit the link.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Global Ethics

Here is the class website for the Economics and Ethics of Gender in the Developing World I mentioned. And here is the table of contents for the Global Ethics Anthology I put together. Most of the readings are online and linked to this page--some would be good paper topics. (Check which!)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Gödel's Theorem

Here is the link to Gödel's Theorem: On Formally Undecidable Propositions. And here is a biography of Gödel with some bibliography and links.

A very good, popular, accessible and fun book reflection on Gödel's Theorem and related matters is Doublas Hofstadter's Gödel Escher Bach. For a more concise, focused discussion see Gödel's Proof. There are reviews for both books at these links.

Gödel Escher Bach is available at the USD library and so is Gödel's Proof.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Russell "On Denoting"

Here is the handout on Russell "On Denoting." And here is the handout on Strawson's response. Finally, here is another handout on the Russell/Strawson debate.

Who won? Russell (read his response to Strawson linked to the homepage) argues that Strawson is simply addressing a whole 'nother question.

Russell's original article, "On Denoting," published in 1905 is such a big deal that there is actually a 100th Anniversary celebration of it going on including a whole conference on Russell and Meinong: 100 Years After 'On Denoting'.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Time Travel at USD!

The Philosophy Club will have Movie Night on Tuesday, February 15th, at 7:00 PM in Serra 315. We will be watching the short film La Jetee , that raises some interesting philosophical issues about time travel and then discussing an article by David Lewis on "The Paradoxes of Time Travel." Copies of the article are available in the philosophy office.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Pagans Online!

Here is a link to a discussion, amongst the Greco-Roman pagans, of their philosophical preferences. Many of these folks are very smart and have serious scholarly interests in the history and literature of Antiquity, but don't get the difference between epistemic preferences and epistemic preferability, between being "attracted" to a philosophy and having arguments that you think support it. Aaaargh!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Philosophical Demons

Here is the link to the article that I mentioned by O. K. Bouwsma, "Descartes Evil Genius." The story by Stanislaus Lem, "The Seventh Sally or How Trurl's Own Perfection Led to No Good" is in Douglas Hofstadter, ed. The Mind's Eye

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Acquaintance and Description

Here is a nice article from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description.

Monday, January 31, 2005

How to Read Philosophy

Reading philosophy is...different. There are a variety of pieces on the web, many of them handouts for classes like this one, about how to read (and write) philosophy. One I like in particular is at www.

I think the key is to see philosophy as a game and regard the papers you are reading not as statements of the Facts of Philosophy (or about a "philosophy") but as plays in defense of a position. In most cases the author will be shadow boxing an imaginary opponent so some of the claims made in the paper will not be made by the author speaking in his own voice, but rather the claims and objections of an imaginary opponent against whom the author is arguing.

Understanding a philosophy paper is like understanding a chess game or a football game. It is a matter of understanding the moves and strategies involved. You should be able to talk about a philosophy paper the way a sports fan talks about an especially interesting game: in terms of offensive and defensive plays, the tactics and the strategies that motivate these moves, and their success or failure to achieve the desired result. To do this effectively, you do need to know some nitty-gritty facts though.

The author’s thesis: Minimally you need to know what he was arguing for--and, as indicated above, this does not mean every detail of his paper, but the conclusion or conclusions of his arguments. For each of the authors we read, if nothing else, you should be able to give a one or two paragraph summary of his position.

Terminology: To understand what is going on you must understand the technical terms that are introduced along the way, e.g. "a priori," "type/token distinction," "definite description," and the deceptively non-technical terms which are given a special sense within philosophical discussions, e.g. "truth," "sense," "reference."

Tools: This is a rag-bag of principles, tactics and strategies that figure in philosophical discussions and facilitate arguments, e.g. Leibniz Law, circularity and begging-the-question objections, the either-it’s-false-or-it’s-trivial strategy, etc. These are standard plays that you learn by reading philosophy. It would be pointless to try to name, list, and memorize these plays but, if you are familiar with them it becomes easier to figure out what an author is doing and also to use them in your own arguments. Again, you pick this up the ability to recognize and make these plays by reading philosophy and asking yourself as you read, what is this guy up to, where is he going and how does this move contribute to his project.

The Standard Arguments and Objections: Have a sketch in mind of the grounds on which the authors’ main theses are supported and the sorts of objections that are put to them. This doesn’t mean memorizing arguments and objections but rather having a general notion of the line of argument that you can, if you think about it, spell out if you need to.