Claiming amnesty 
Bridget and Janet both made note of Blogroll Amnesty Day. I thought that maybe I should use the occasion to actually add a blogroll here at FoE. Since I have recently begun using Bloglines, generating the list would be as easy as this:



Adding it to the right-hand column would only require adding a line to the PHP template for the page, but no. First, because I think the right-hand column of this blog is already a bit too long. And adding a third column would be bad UI of the highest order. Second, because blogroll is a vile word. One does not step in such a thing voluntarily.

Instead, I've included two such dynamic lists in the Useful links page.

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Blog software update 
I have updated to the new version of SimplePHPBlog. This broke the theme I had been using, but I have hammered the default theme into some approximation of it. If the change has broken anything else, please let me know either in comments or by e-mail.

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The teaching meme 
Janet has tagged me with the following question: Why do you teach and why is academic freedom critical to that effort?

The glib answer is that I teach because it pays the bills, and without academic freedom it would be more fun to work at a coffee shop instead.

A longer answer:

Teaching philosophy is not about teaching students facts or results. It is about maneuvering them so that they confront arguments and struggle with questions. In that sense, teaching philosophy is about getting students to do philsophy. I teach because philosophy is worth doing (and fun), and students ought to do things that are worth doing (and fun.)

When teaching Descartes, for example, the discussion depends on how students respond at first. Sometimes students acquiesce to arguments for the existence of God just because they already believe in the conclusion. With students like these, I need to put on my critical hat and try to get them to see the weaknesses in Descartes' arguments.

More often, students think that Descartes' philosophy is just special pleading for religion. With students like those, I need to put on my Cartesian hat and try to get them to see how the God plays a systematic role in his philosophy.

Effectively engaging students requires that I have both hats available, and that I can choose which to wear as necessary. For other topics, I need further varieties of millinery. And what is academic freedom if not intellectual haberdashery?

I tag Ron.

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I can never post at the same blog twice 
In the comments at Brian Leiter's blog, several of us have been discussing what it means for the profession that so many philosophy papers are available for download. David Velleman writes:
The recent trend toward conducting philosophy in ephemeral venues such as blogs and online postings, without entering it into the permanent published record, will have the result that future ages will view us the way we view some of the Presocratics. To the twenty-second century, twenty-first century philosophers will appear the way Heraclitus does to us -- as only barely accessible, through fragments gleaned from secondary sources.

This seems overblown to me.

We still publish. There are some exchanges that occur just in online fora, but anything of substance eventually surfaces in a published paper or a book eventually. Conversely, it is not as if philosophers before the internet published everything they ever said or thought. A great deal of philosophy got done face-to-face. In "Three Indeterminacies", for example, Quine discusses and responds to arguments raised by various critics at an invitation-only, closed-door conference on his philosophy.

Also, a great deal of philosophy has occurred as correspondence. Some important letters are eventually published, but others exist only in archives. Arguably, blog postings will survive about as well as letters have. Some important posts will be lost, but there will be a great deal of documentation available for future historians to reckon with.

I guess this might make some posts analogous to the ancient sources that we only know about because they are mentioned in some text that survives. Imagine that in 2108 there are no longer any surviving copies of comment threads at the Leiter Reports, but that copies of Footnotes on Epicycles survive on a server at the Vatican. I quoted a single paragraph of Velleman's comments, and so 22nd-century philosophers know something of his argument. They are unable to recover the context, however, and can only guess as to whether I have situated his remarks fairly or not.

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Reaching out toward Exceeding Our Grasp 
In a previous paper about Kyle Stanford's New Induction, I interpreted it as a wholesale argument and argued that it fails. I had occasion to rethink this while teaching his book, Exceeding Our Grasp, in a seminar last Fall. I now think that it can succeed as a retail argument. I have posted a draft of a new paper in which I defend this retail version of the New Induction.

Abstract


Kyle Stanford has recently claimed to offer a new challenge to scientific realism. Taking his inspiration from the familiar Pessimistic Induction (PI), Stanford proposes a New Induction (NI). Contra the suggestion that the NI is a "red herring", I argue that it reveals something deep and important about science. The Problem of Unconceived Alternatives, which lies at the heart of the NI, yields a richer anti-realism than the PI. It explains why science falls short when it falls short, and so it might figure in the most coherent account of scientific practice. However, this best account will be antirealist in some respects and about some theories, but it will not be a sweeping antirealism about all or most of science.

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