Soft serve metaphysics 
I have been thinking about the question of emoji art for quite some time. I've finally completed a draft of a paper, which I've posted over on my website.

The ontology of 💩

Summary: Emoji are picture characters familiar from smart phone text messages. If a work of art is written in emoji, how should we think about the emoji that constitute it? What is the ontology of such a work? I begin in section 1 by discussing the history of emoji. One of the more notable emoji is the pile of poo which figures in the title of this paper. In section 2, I consider the meaning of emoji and argue that there is no natural language translation for an emoji character. In sections 3 and 4, I discuss some specific works of emoji art: Emoji Dick and emoji poems. In section 5, I argue these works are best understood as specified strings of emoji in much the same way as a work of prose is understood as a specified string of words. In section 6, I conclude by arguing that there are possible emoji works with other ontologies.


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The fruits of June 
I had meant to blog more in June, but I did not.

I did, however, collaborate with my colleague Brad Armour-Garb on a paper. We started in the first week of June and have now finished a stable draft, which I posted over on my website.

Attitudes, self-ascriptions, and introspection

Summary: People regularly answer questions about their propositional attitudes. Moreover, they are fairly reliable at this. For example, if someone is asked whether she believes that Mickey Mouse has a tail, she can quickly answer if she does. Only under rare circumstances would we say that she was wrong if she sincerely asserted that she did believe that Mickey Mouse has a tail. But this raises some questions. How do people readily make such self-ascriptions? And what explains their impressive reliability?

We critically address Robert Gordon's (2007) recent attempt at explaining self-ascriptions of propositional attitudes without an appeal to introspection. In particular, after explaining Gordon's proposal for how we make such self-ascriptions and for how we can explain their impressive reliability, we show that his position is ultimately untenable. We then provide a different explanation for how we can self-ascribe such attitudes and go on to show that we can do this without any real reliance on introspection.

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May blows in 
My paper Kind of Borrowed, Kind of Blue has been published in the Spring issue of JAAC.

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I ought to mention 
I recently posted an updated version of my paper, coauthored with Jon Mandle, on the is-ought gap.

Somehow the gravitas of blogging has made me hesitant to post one-liners like this. I too-easily forget that I used to have an RSS feed just for new papers and updates to drafts, and that I suspended that when I started blogging because I could write one-liner developments posts to achieve the same effect.

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The internal proletariat is a-risin' (maybe) 
There seems to be more campus activism now than there was a decade ago or (peering further into the past) when I was a student in the 90s and early 00s. However, there's a loud chorus of the jabbering about current activism which decries student activists as entitled cry-babies who want to undo the enlightenment.

This story at the Daily Beast leads with the headline "The College That Wants to Ban 'History'". The story is actually about students at Western Washington University who issued over-the-top demands in which they opted to spell 'history' as 'hxstory' and 'person' as 'persxn'. Coverage at Inside Higher Ed is even-handed enough to note that this spelling is a peculiar affectation: "Replacing certain letters in pronouns or some other words (like 'Latinx' for Latino or Latina) with an X is [a] strategy to avoid gendered language. Changing other words, like 'person' and 'history,' in that way does not appear to be a very common at all, however: neither 'hxstory' nor 'persxn' have been used often enough to be graphable by Google Trends."

It seems unlikely this is actually a substantial student movement. The group's petition has only reached half of its goal signatures, and most of those are transparently unserious. Some use perennial joke names like 'Benjamin Dover'. Some use less common joke names like 'Solomon Lowe' and 'Mush Forbrains'. Others didn't even bother with joke names and just sign the petition with expletives, like 'Lolololol NOPE' and 'Demanding Entitled Shithead'.
Read More...

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