Amie Thomasson: Ontology Made Easy | WSB #23

January 16, 2018

Do tables really exist?

While debate over such a seemingly trivial question may initially sound ridiculous, the existence of "ordinary objects" is a controversial question in contemporary metaphysics. Events, numbers, properties, and "mereological sums" are among other contested "objects". Indeed, ontology today is a bit of a quagmire of proposed objects and criteria for existence.

One of the major voices in this field is that of philosopher Amie Thomasson, who claims that ontology can actually be quite simple. In this interview, Prof. Thomasson walks us through the recent history of ontology - from Carnap to Quine to the contemporary arena - and offers a diagnosis of how things got so muddled. She then offers her alternative, which she calls "easy ontology". According to her view, since we know that "I have two apples" is true (assuming it is), then it follows that the number of apples is two, and so that there is a number two, and therefore that at least one number exists. In this part 1, Thomasson draws out both the history of these debates and her own approach. In the second half, she'll defend it against common objections.

Next week: Amie Thomasson: Objections to Easy Ontology

Visit http://williamnava.com for more info!

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.

Sources:

Ontology Made Easy by Amie Thomasson
Ordinary Objects by Amie Thomasson
"Metaphysical Disputes and Metalinguistic Negotiations" by Amie Thomasson
"On What There Is" by W.V.O. Quine
"Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology" by Rudolf Carnap
"Do Tables and Chairs Really Exist? Controversy over Ordinary Objects" by Amie Thomasson (video lecture)

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Michael Zigismund: Philosophy of Law | WSB #22

January 9, 2018

What is the law? Is it simply what's to be found in legal statutes and government decrees? Or is it something broader, affected by and inseparable from both morality and custom?

This is one of the fundamental debates in philosophy of law. On one side stand the positivists, who propose a narrow view of the law as separate from ethics and other concerns outside of the direct commands of the state. On the other, we have natural rights theorists, who believe the law and morality are inseparable. Indeed, according to natural rights theorists, illegitimate laws aren't laws at all.

On what grounds may this debate be settled? And what's really at stake here? Is there more to this than a question of semantics? Legal expert Michael Zigismund guides us through this debate, and applies it to three areas: Nazi law, slavery, and gun ownership. He concludes with a summary of a "third way", which he argues takes the best of both while avoiding their pitfalls: the Hayekian view of law as emergent practice.

Next week: Amie Thomasson: Ontology Made Easy

Visit http://williamnava.com for more info!

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.

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Why (I) Do Philosophy | WSB#21

January 2, 2018

Philosophy's an odd practice. It can be abstract, technical, and complicated to the point of appearing incomprehensible; and the generality of the subject matter can make it seem like it isn't really about anything at all. It certainly doesn't seem to make a great deal of progress over time. So why the hell does anyone do it?

Here I propose three main reasons I think people do philosophy: competitive craftsmanship, scientific inquiry, and spirituality. The first breaks down into two subcategories - craftsmanship and competition - as does the second - curiosity and improving the world. Just how does philosophy satisfy each of these needs? Do people really pursue philosophy in order to satisfy them? And can they actually be satisfied by philosophy? I conclude with some words about how these apply to why I'm pursuing philosophy (eg, doing this podcast), and specifically why I'm not pursuing academic philosophy.

Next week: Michael Zigismund: Philosophy of Law

Visit http://williamnava.com for more info!

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.

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Tomasz Kaye, Pt. 3: Omniveillance | WSB #20

December 26, 2017

The last 250 years have created an explosion in technological progress that has fundamentally changed human society. Can we expect the rate of technological improvement to accelerate even further? If so, how might those developments transform humanity? Might some of the changes be so fundamental as to render our ideas about social and political ethics moot?

After some musings on possible transhumanist developments, Tomasz and I zero in on one in particular: omniveillance. Omniveillance refers to a society in which everything is recorded and everyone has the ability to check what anyone else is doing. This would be the end of privacy as we know it. As scary as this outcome sounds, Tomasz explains the reasons we can expect it to happen even if no one wants it. We also discuss reasons it may not be as horrible as it initially sounds. We conclude with some thoughts on how the omniveillent society might exercise horizontal social control, in potentially good and bad ways.

Next week: Why (I) Do Philosophy

Visit http://williamnava.com for more info!

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.

Sources:

"Neuralink and the Brain's Magical Future" by Tim Urban
"Mutually Assured Snooping" by Tomasz Kaye
The Transparent Society by David Brin

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Tomasz Kaye, Pt. 2: Mechanics of Market Anarchism | WSB#19

December 19, 2017

Last week, Tomasz laid his metaethical foundations for political philosophy. This week, we dive into his preferred political system proper. What are the necessary conditions for a political system to be considered "market anarchist"? Just how might a market anarchist society operate? How would disputes be resolved? Who deals with people in the society who simply refuse to cooperate? And how restrictive is market anarchism? Would it be possible to have a "market anarchism" that operates on socialist principles?

Next week: Tomasz Kaye, Pt. 3: Omniveillance

Visit http://williamnava.com for more info!

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.

Sources:

The Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman
"The Machinery of Freedom: Illustrated Summary" by Tomasz Kaye (video)
"The Most Dangerous Monopoly: When Caution Kills" by Tomasz Kaye (video)

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Tomasz Kaye, Pt. 1: Foundations for Political Philosophy | WSB #18

December 12, 2017

Tomasz Kaye is a market anarchist and creator of the popular animated video "George Ought to Help", which argues against the legitimacy of the state. Tomasz's approach to political philosophy is highly systematic. He begins with metaethical questions and, only after answering them, devises a political system that coheres with his metaethics. In this episode, we focus on those foundational questions. Tomasz is a "moral nihilist" - after explaining what that means and why he's convinced of it, we discuss the role that intuitions play in his ethics. We then explore his intuitions about property - both of one's body and of things - and what may logically follow from those intuitions.

Next week: Tomasz Kaye, Pt. 2: The Mechanics of Market Anarchism

Visit http://williamnava.com for more info!

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.

Sources:

"George Ought to Help" by Tomasz Kaye
"How to Make Peace with Moral Nihilism" by Tomasz Kaye

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Greg Restall: Objections to Logical Pluralism and the Preface and Liar Paradoxes | WSB #17

December 5, 2017

In the first half of my interview with Professor Greg Restall, he laid out logical pluralism: the view that there is more than one correct logical consequence relation. In this second half, he responds to objections. Specifically, he explains why it makes sense to admit inconsistent situations even if one believes, as he does, that all possible worlds are consistent. He also touches on the relationship between notions of deductive validity and reasoning norms. We then take an extended detour into the Preface paradox, the Liar paradox, dialetheism, and the relationship between proof theory and philosophy.

Next week: Tomasz Kaye, Pt. 1: Foundations for Political Philosophy

Visit http://williamnava.com for more info!

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.

Sources:

Logical Pluralism by Jc Beall and Greg Restall
consequently.org - Greg Restall's website
Proof Theory and Philosophy by Greg Restall (book manuscript in progress)
"The Liar Paradox from John Buridan to Thomas Bradwardine" by Stephen Read
"Models of Liars in Bradwardine's Theory of Truth" by Greg Restall
"Normativity of Logic and the Preface Paradox" by William Nava

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Greg Restall: Logical Pluralism | WSB #16

November 28, 2017

What is logical pluralism? Greg Restall, logician and Professor of Philosophy from the University of Melbourne joins me to answer this question.

When we study logic, we’re concerned with consequence or entailment: what follows from what. But what are the criteria for being “consequence”? Professor Restall says there are three: necessity, formality, and normativity. Given these criteria, he argues there is more than one relation worthy of the name “consequence”. In other words, there is more than one system of logic that correctly represents our informal grasp of necessary entailment. This is because logical rules operate differently depending on the sort of “case” they’re functioning in. Among various, Professor Restall highlights two types of cases: “possible worlds” and “situations”. The first fit classical logic, the second paraconsistent logic. Though they differ on what kinds of arguments are valid, they both correctly represent deductive reasoning. Professor Restall explains why this makes perfect sense.

Next week: Greg Restall: Objections to Logical Pluralism, and the Preface and Liar Paradoxes

Visit http://williamnava.com for more info!

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.

Sources:

Logical Pluralism by Jc Beall and Greg Restall
consequently.org - Greg Restall's website (see his excellent and accessible recent series on "Twelve Things I Love about Philosophical Logic")

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The Case for Anarchism, Pt. 2: Necessity and Strategy | WSB #15

November 21, 2017

In part 1, I defined the state as a pattern of behaviors coupled with a collective interpretation of that pattern. In this second part, I move on to the case for anarchism proper. I begin by showing that the case for the state is inherently one from necessary evil. If I'm right, and it turns out that the state is not necessary after all, it follows that it is undesirable. This is what I argue in the first half of the episode. I conclude with an extended discussion of strategy. If the state is undesirable, then how should we go about getting rid of it? By analyzing what the state is, we see that both revolution and activism are unlikely to succeed. The only path forward with a real chance of success is agorism.

Next week: Greg Restall: Logical Pluralism

Visit http://williamnava.com for more info!

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.

Sources:

Pressing the Button - database of alternatives to government-provided services
"Market Anarchism as Constitutionalism" by Roderick Long
"Hayekian Anarchism" by Edward Stringham and Todd Zywicki
The Evolution of Cooperation by Robert Axelrod
The Enterprise of Law: Justice without the State by Bruce Benson

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The Case for Anarchism, Pt. 1: Social Ontology | WSB #14

November 14, 2017

What does the Stanford Prison Experiment have to do with a case for anarchism?

In this episode, I argue for a certain view of the state. Piggybacking off Max Weber's definition of the state as a "human community that successfully claims the monopoly over the use of physical force within a given territory", I propose a similar but broader definition. Whereas Weber's definition is a political one, based on power analysis, my definition purports to be sociological, and therefore less morally charged than Weber's. Crucial to my take on the state is the concept of a Collective Interpretive Framework (CIF) - a shared lens through which we interpret reality. I argue that the state is a function of a particular CIF; in other words, it is a certain CIF we share that causes reality to manifest governments. This view of the state as a "self-fulfilling prophecy" and "shared hallucination" sets the stage for the case for anarchism coming in part 2.

Next week: The Case for Anarchism, Pt. 2: Necessity and Strategy

Visit http://williamnava.com for more info!

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.

Sources:

"Stanford Prison Experiment" by Philip Zimbardo (website)
"Politics as a Vocation" by Max Weber
"Would You Press the Button?" by William Nava

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