You may not have noticed, thanks to my use of post-scheduling ninjitsu, but I was actually on the road this past weekend with L., at the (30th annual) Midsouth Philosophy Conference in Memphis, Tennessee. A good time, except that you need to know that if you’re going to visit Memphis on the weekend without a car, you’d better either get a hotel right downtown, or else get to like spending all evening stranded in your hotel room. (Next year I intend to do the former. Also to make sure I have all the bus schedules I’ll need printed out and in my bag with me when I go.) Here’s the ego-centric summary of the conference proceedings:
On Saturday, I presented my essay Intuition-Pumping for Fun and Profit, on appeals to intuition and two arguments against hedonism, drawn from G. E. Moore and Francis Hutcheson. Here’s the basic idea: the category of philosophical appeals that the current fashion dubs
philosophical intuitionsis something of a motley grab-bag, and the things subsumed under it have so little in common that I doubt the category can be both coherent and interesting at the same time). At least some of these non-inferential appeals to some more immediate form of insight or understanding are probably indispensable tools in philosophical reasoning, but they are also blunt tools and too rarely examined given how often philosophers rely on them. This leads to confused blame for arguments that use them as much as confused praise; an excellent example can be found in Moore's Two Planets argument against ethical hedonism and Hutcheson's Dying Benefactor argument against psychological egoism. Both rely completely on intuition-pumping to do their work; both are routinely dismissed as crass question-begging. But I argue that an asymmetry in our intuitions in each of these arguments reveals that the charge is unjust, and that they ought to be just as decisive for skeptics as to converts. If I’m right, that tells us not only that hedonism and egoism are false, but also something interesting about the nature of philosophical intuitions. For more, read on…
Also, on Friday, I read some remarks in reply to Mylan Engel’s essay Epistemic Contextualism and the Problem of Knowing What One Says. Mylan has a clever argument to suggest that two of the most common versions of contextualist semantics for knowledge-claims have a serious problem: they seem to indicate that it’s often impossible for you to know what the truth-conditions of a knowledge-claim are until after you’ve already made it (which is, of course, a problem if you want to assert only what’s true and avoid asserting what’s false). It’s an interesting argument, but I (tho’ not a contextualist myself) suggest that there is probably an equally clever way out of the problem in the general run of cases (which has the advantage of being a contextualist solution for contextualists to apply to the problem); and that it’s at least controversial whether this is even a problem for those remaining cases where the general solution won’t pan out. Read on…
Incidentally, feel free to leave any comments on either the paper or the commentary here in the backtalk section.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled parade of facile sarcasm and polemical revisionist history.