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Nicolas Langlitz: Psychedelics and Philosophy | WSB #45

Nicolas Langlitz: Psychedelics and Philosophy | WSB #45

June 19, 2018

Psychedelic substances, such as psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, and ayahuasca, do much more than generate sensory hallucinations. Users often come away with a sense of having gained deep insight into the nature of reality - even if what that insight is, and what is so special about it, can be hard to communicate. Anthropologist Nicolas Langlitz associates it with the "perennial philosophy" - an old idea, popularized by Aldous Huxley, that all world religions communicate the same basic truth. Years after writing the book The Perennial Philosophy, Huxley tried mescaline and LSD and became convinced that psychedelics provide a shortcut to the kinds of mystical experiences that would put us in touch with that basic reality - what he called the "world mind". Langlitz is skeptical that psychedelics really do communicate some kind of metaphysical truth. In this interview, we discuss what psychedelics do reveal, if anything, and what the relationship is between experience and knowledge.

Next week: Kit Fine: Metaphysical Grounding

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

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
Click here for the full list of episodes!

Sources:

Neuropsychedelia: The Revival of Hallucinogen Research since the Decade of the Brain (Langlitz)
"Is There a Place of Psychedelics in Philosophy?: Fieldwork in Neuro- and Perennial Philosophy" (Langlitz)
Heaven and Hell (Huxley)
The Doors of Perception (Huxley)

Topics discussed:

0:20 - Intro to Nicolas Langlitz
1:05 - Anthropology and philosophy
10:06 - Nick's research on psychedelics
22:23 - Perennial philosophy (Huxley)
29:20 - Indescribable?
33:09 - Materialism and mysticism
41:14 - Diversity v. unity of psychedelic experience
47:40 - Validity and expression of the psychedelic experience
59:50 - Place of psychedelics in society

Jc Beall: Logic of Christ | WSB #44

Jc Beall: Logic of Christ | WSB #44

June 12, 2018

Christ is a walking contradiction. He is both fully human and fully divine. Indeed, he is both mutable and immutable. According to classical logic, the existence of a true contradiction would imply that everything is the case, no matter how absurd. And so, theologians and Christian metaphysicians have worked for centuries to conceptually make sense of Christ's dual nature in a way that avoids contradiction.

Philosopher and logician Jc Beall argues that these efforts have been motivated by a naive understanding of logic. There are "subclassical" logics - that is, logics weaker than classical logic - in which contradictions do not entail every arbitrary conclusion. And these aren't ad-hoc constructions. Beall argues that one subclassical logic - called First Degree Entailment (FDE) - is, in fact, the correct account of logical consequence, for reasons independent of the Christian problem. Beall covers the basics of how FDE works and why it is the universal or "basement-level" consequence relation. This allows us to have our cake and eat it too: we may take Christ to be, quite literally, both mutable and not mutable, at the same time and in the same respect. This isn't just appealing for its simplicity. Beall suspects that it is essential to Christ's role that he be literally contradictory.

If you're interested in Jc Beall's work and non-classical logic, check out my interview with Greg Restall (part 1 and part 2) on the book Logical Pluralism, co-authored by Beall and Restall.

Next week: Nicolas Langlitz: Psychedelics and Philosophy

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

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
Click here for the full list of episodes!

Sources:

Jc Beall (homepage)
"Christ - A Contradiction" (Jc Beall; forthcoming)
"Theological Axioms and the Bounds of Logic: Christ as the Fundamental Problem" (Jc Beall)
Spandrels of Truth (Jc Beall)

Topics discussed:

0:20 - Intro to Jc Beall
1:20 - Spandrels of Truth
5:35 - Fundamental problem of Christology
16:23 - Explosion and disjunctive syllogism
25:06 - Other solutions to the fundamental problem
28:57 - Trinity and identity
31:37 - Logic, logical pluralism, and entailment
42:55 - Closure
46:08 - Consequence as "basement level" closure relation
53:19 - First Degree Entailment
1:03:50 - Are truth and falsity mutually exclusive?
1:10:01 - How weak can you go?
1:22:00 - Relevance to Christian practice

Jason Lee Byas: Against Criminal Justice | WSB #43

Jason Lee Byas: Against Criminal Justice | WSB #43

June 5, 2018

What gives some people the right to put others in prison? Is prison - and the criminal justice system generally - an ethically permissible method for dealing with criminality?

Individualist anarchist and prison abolitionist Jason Lee Byas goes over the common justifications for the prison system and explains why none of them succeed. Specifically, he covers the doctrines of retributivism (specifically desert retributivism and expressive retributivism), deterrence, rehabilitation, and rights forfeiture, arguing against each. In place of prison, Byas proposes a tort system of restitution. Monetary restitution may not be sufficient to right the wrong of a crime, says Byas; but it is all that the law should mandate, leaving other desired correction or compensation up to community-based initiatives (Byas cites restorative justice as an example of the sort of institutions that can take the place of those corrective aspects of criminal justice that retribution does not address). Byas also explains how a system of monetary restitution can get around problems of class-based inequality (for example, if someone is so rich that they don't mind having to pay to commit a crime, or if someone is so far in debt that another dent wouldn't matter). Finally, he explains how violent offenders who pose an "ongoing threat" might be handled in his preferred system.

Next week: Jc Beall: Logic of Christ

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

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
Click here for the full list of episodes!

Sources:

Jason Lee Byas (articles at the Center for a Stateless Society)
"Against the Criminal Justice System" (Jason Lee Byas; Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V)
"Prisons without Punishment?" (Jason Lee Byas)
"The Irrelevance of Responsibility" (Roderick Long)
The Apology Ritual: A Philosophical Theory of Punishment (Christopher Bennett)
Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform (John Pfaff)

Topics discussed:

0:20 - Intro to Jason Lee Byas
2:11 - What is prison abolitionism?
5:42 - What about deterrence?
11:50 - Retributivism
15:00 - Desert retributivism
17:58 - Expressive retributivism
28:36 - Rights forfeiture and self-defense
40:44 - Differences in moral intuition
49:47 - Restitution and class difference
1:08:17 - Intention
1:13:47 - Restorative justice and social pressure
1:27:51 - Due process in communities
1:32:36 - Involuntary containment of ongoing threats
1:42:38 - Prospects

Stephen Read: Bradwardine Solution to the Liar | WSB #42

Stephen Read: Bradwardine Solution to the Liar | WSB #42

May 29, 2018

For much of the 20th century, the Liar paradox has stood as an elusive and stubborn puzzle. The main solutions to it have significant drawbacks, such as blocking meaningful cases of self-reference or abandoning bivalence (the principle that all propositions are either true or false and not both). In recent decades, Stephen Read has rediscovered and defended a solution by the medieval thinker Thomas Bradwardine. If Bradwardine's argument is correct, the liar sentence is simply false. When properly examined, its falsity does not imply its truth. Bradwardine shows this with a clever argument that does not require us to abandon classical logic or block self-reference. It does rely on a controversial principle, "closure": any statement implicitly says (or means) everything that follows from what it says. Arguably, whether the Bradwardine solution succeeds or fails to conclusively solve the Liar depends on whether one accepts closure. In this interview, Stephen Read runs through Bradwardine's argument in some detail, then defends it against a few objections.

Bradwardine's argument is rather subtle and abstract and can be hard to follow verbally. Here's a short written version of Bradwardine's argument, with minimum symbolism, that shows each step and notes where logical principles are invoked.

Be sure to listen to the first half of this interview, where Stephen explains the Liar and its significance and solutions in the 20th century.

Next week: Jason Lee Byas: Against Criminal Justice

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

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
Click here for the full list of episodes!

Sources:

Stephen Read (homepage)
Thomas Bradwardine's Insolubilia (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
"The Liar from John Buridan back to Thomas Bradwardine" (Stephen Read)
"Read on Bradwardine on the Liar" (Graham Priest)
"Lessons on truth from medieval solutions to the Liar paradox" (C. Dutilh Novaes)

Topics discussed:

2:20 - Intro on medieval logic
5:17 - Restriction and cassation
9:55 - Possibility of self-reference
14:38 - Intro to Bradwardine's solution
22:19 - Running through Bradwardine's argument
28:39 - Bradwardine's theory of truth v. Tarski's
32:29 - Objection to Bradwardine's closure principle
55:16 - Do sentences say they are true?
1:00:59 - Priest's Principle of Uniform Solution

Stephen Read: Liar Paradox | WSB #41

Stephen Read: Liar Paradox | WSB #41

May 22, 2018

"This sentence is false". Is that sentence true or false? If it's true, then what it says must hold; but what it says is that it's false, so it must be false. But if it's false, then what it says must not hold; but what it says is that it's false, so it must not be false. But if it's not false, it must be true. So if the sentence is true, it is false, and if it is false, it is true. The sentence, therefore, seems to be both true and false, which seems absurd.

Philosopher and logician Stephen Read is one of the preeminent scholars on this "liar paradox". He is known, in large part, for rediscovering and defending a long forgotten solution to the paradox first proposed by the medieval philosopher Thomas Bradwardine. In this first half of our conversation, Read covers the paradox's rich and influential history. It was first discovered, in its full form, in the 4th century BCE by Eubulides (who also first set down the sorites paradox). It became a central problem in the 20th century via its association with Russell's Paradox, a major problem in the foundations of mathematics. Later in the century, two thinkers - Alfred Tarski and Saul Kripke - proposed monumentally influential theories of language and truth motivated, largely, by the paradox. But even after their contributions, the consensus is that the paradox remains unsolved. Quite a few new solutions have been suggested in the decades since Kripke's 1975 proposal. Among the more influential is Stephen Read's revival of the Bradwardine solution, which will the subject of part 2 of this interview.

Next week: Stephen Read: Bradwardine's Solution to the Liar

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

I've discussed the Liar briefly before, in both part 1 and part 2 of my interview with Graham Priest.

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
Click here for the full list of episodes!

Sources:

Stephen Read (homepage)
"Liar Paradox" (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
"Tarski's Truth Definitions" (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
"Outline of a Theory of Truth" (Saul Kripke)

Topics discussed:

0:19 - Intro to Stephen Read
4:24 - What is the Liar Paradox?
6:33 - The Greeks on the Liar
11:06 - Frege, Cantor's Paradox, and Russell's Paradox
18:24 - Tarski's solution
21:55 - Natural language, formal languages, semantics, and the T-schema
32:03 - Shortcomings of Tarski's solution
36:12 - Kripke's solution

T.K. Coleman: Sacramental Christianity | WSB #40

T.K. Coleman: Sacramental Christianity | WSB #40

May 15, 2018

We often think of religion as being centered around a series of beliefs. To be Christian, I must believe in the veracity of the Bible as a literal account of historical events. Doubt, then, is a problem to be dealt with. Understandable for a while, perhaps, but something which must be overcome in order to be in good standing with the faith.

T.K. Coleman offers an alternative approach to Christianity: a Sacramental approach, which focuses not on the belief requirement, but on the personal and transformative aspect of interacting with the Bible and with the faith. To be a Christian is not to have a set of beliefs, but to seek transformative experiences of intimacy with the divine. The literal truth of the Bible is, to an extent, secondary. Doubt becomes an inescapable part of interacting with the faith as a Sacrament. In the end, some stories may well be literally true, says Coleman; others best seen as metaphorical. For the second half of the interview, we discuss at length the metaphysical and epistemic issues surrounding belief in these stories, and in miracles broadly.

Next week: Stephen Read: Liar Paradox

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

I've discussed Christianity before, in my interview with professor Jim Slagle.

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
Click here for the full list of episodes!

Sources:

T.K. Coleman (homepage)
Praxis

Topics discussed:

0:19 - Intro to TK Coleman
4:30 - TK's childhood with Christianity
15:11 - The importance of philosophy
27:53 - Doubt
39:55 - Sacramental Christianity
55:33 - Literal veracity of Biblical events
1:07:37 - Metaphorical v. literal interpretations
1:21:40 - Belief in miracles
1:28:18 - Personal experiences and the role of evidence
2:04:05 - Religious pluralism
2:11:40 - Conclusion

David Papineau: Mary’s Room | WSB #39

David Papineau: Mary’s Room | WSB #39

May 8, 2018

Mary has lived her entire life in a black and white room. In that room, she learned everything there is to know about the neurophysiology of perception. She knows everything that happens in the brain when a person sees a blue sky. One day, Mary leaves the black and white room and sees the blue sky. Has Mary learned something new?

Frank Jackson posed this famous thought experiment as a challenge to physicalists, such as David Papineau, who argue that qualitative experiences are identical to brain states. If this is really so, the argument goes, Mary isn't learning anything new, since she already knew everything about the relevant brain states. But she does seem to learn something new: what it's actually like to see blue. In this interview, Papineau addresses this challenge and explains why he thinks that, despite our intuitions to the contrary, qualitative experiences are simply neural states under a different description.

Be sure to listen to the first half of this interview, where David explains Russellian monism and the causal argument.

Next week: T.K. Coleman: Sacramental Christianity

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

If you're interested in Mary's Room and qualia, check out this interview with David Rosenthal.

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
Click here for the full list of episodes!

Sources:

David Papineau (homepage)
"
Naturalism and Physicalism" (David Papineau)
"Epiphenomenal Qualia" (Frank Jackson)

Topics discussed:

1:20 - Mary's room
3:21 - Mary discovers a new concept for the same thing
6:46 - Phenomenal concepts as revelatory
10:37 - Russellian monism again
17:46 - Being like something
19:47 - Ontology of different concepts
32:36 - Aspect of the brain state?

David Papineau: Physicalism | WSB #38

David Papineau: Physicalism | WSB #38

May 1, 2018

Most contemporary philosophers call themselves "naturalists" or "physicalists". But what do these labels really mean? What do they commit us to?

Philosopher David Papineau first puts it negatively: physicalists deny the existence of the supernatural, or of "anything spooky". More specifically, only those things that play a causal role in the spatiotemporal world exist. And, modern physics tells us, only the physical plays such a causal role. For this reason, "abstract objects" that don't themselves affect the physical world, such as numbers, should not be said to exist.

For much of the interview, Papineau runs through a "causal argument" to show that consciousness is physical. The argument begins with the premise that mental states have physical effects (for example, my experience of pain causes me to cry out). It also assumes that physical effects have only physical causes and that events aren't systematically overdetermined (caused by two things at once, like a man killed by a gunshot and a bolt of lightning at once). If this is all true, it follows that mental states must themselves be physical. Papineau runs through possible ways out of this causal argument, including epiphenomenalism. In the process, he runs through a brief history of modern physics and how we came to discover that all physical effects have physical causes. He concludes with an exploration of panpsychism and "Russellian monism", views that attempt to accept the causal argument but deny that consciousness is therefore strictly physical.

Next week: David Papineau: Mary's Room

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

Interested in ontology? Check out my interview with Amie Thomasson about metaontology.

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
Click here for the full list of episodes!

Sources:

David Papineau (homepage)
"
Naturalism and Physicalism" (David Papineau)

Topics discussed:

0:19: Introduction to David Papineau (sports and philosophy, metaphilosophy)
5:20 - What is naturalism?
15:15 - Do "abstract objects" exist?
19:56 - Causal argument for physicalism
26:49 - Ways out: epiphenomenalism and overdetermination
30:59 - Physical causes for physical effects: a short history of modern physics
44:39 - Quantum mechanics
48:54 - Panpsychism and Russellian monism

Peter Klein: What Is Knowledge? (Gettier Problem) | WSB #37

Peter Klein: What Is Knowledge? (Gettier Problem) | WSB #37

April 24, 2018

What is knowledge?

For some time, the answer to this perennial question was thought by many to be "justified true belief". If I believe X to be true, I have good reason for believing X to be true, and X really is true, then I know X. In 1963, Edmund Gettier published a now legendary three-page paper titled "Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?" in which he gave two examples of justified true belief that did not constitute knowledge. Since then, epistemologists have mostly agreed that there's some extra ingredient requisite for knowledge but have disagreed about what it is. After drawing out Gettier's examples, Peter Klein explains that there are two major camps. The first he calls etiology of belief: theories in which the extra ingredient has to do with how the belief was attained. Reliabilists, for example, argue that a justified true belief counts as knowledge if the belief is arrived at via a method that reliably delivers accurate beliefs. Klein belongs to the second camp: quality of evidence theories, which have to do with the strength of the justification, not the cause of the belief. Klein defends his own preferred quality of evidence theory: defeasibility theory, which involves the existence or absence of "defeaters" for the justification.

Next week: David Papineau: Physicalism

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

Interested in knowledge? You may be interested in Alvin Plantinga's epistemology, which I discussed with professor Jim Slagle.

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
Click here for the full list of episodes!

Sources:

Explaining Knowledge: New Essays on the Gettier Problem (ed. Claudio de Almedia, Rodrigo Borges, Peter Klein)
"Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?" (Edmund Gettier)

Topics discussed:

0:53 - Introducing the Gettier problem (fallibilism and closure)
5:14 - Gettier's first example: Smith and Jones
8:43 - Gettier's second example: Jones and Brown
13:18 - Warrant
15:37 - Etiology of belief solutions: tracking, virtue, reliabilism
20:52 - Causes of belief
28:52 - Peter Unger on psychological certainty
33:22 - Defeasibility theory
46:41 - Argument against closure

Peter Klein: Infinitism and Pyrrhonism | WSB #36

Peter Klein: Infinitism and Pyrrhonism | WSB #36

April 17, 2018

Suppose you know X. How do you know? Maybe you know because of Y. How do you know Y? Maybe the answer is Z. How do you know Z?

This is the regress problem of knowledge, also called the Agrippan trilemma and the Münchhausen trilemma. It is based on the supposition that if we claim to know something, we must have a reason for it and that reason must itself be something that we know. This leaves open four possible solutions. One is skepticism, the belief that we have no knowledge. The most common is foundationalism, which posits certain basic facts that require no external reasons to be justified. Another option is coherentism, which solves the problem via a kind of circular reasoning or justification loop. And finally, there is infinitism, the view that there is no end to the regress. For any chain of justification, the final member of the chain will always be unjustified, and it is always possible to go looking for further reasons of reasons of reasons. As infinitist Peter Klein puts it, knowledge is never "settled". Even so, says Klein, it is still possible to have knowledge. In this interview, Klein first argues why he thinks coherentism, foundationalism, and a certain kind of skepticism all fail. He then explains his own account of justification, as "something that we do", and how it makes the infinitist picture look more plausible than it first seems. Along the way, he recounts the framing of the problem by Sextus Empiricus in his book Outline of Pyrrhonism. Klein argues that the ancient Greek Pyrrhonians, though they called themselves skeptics, were really infinitists.

Next week: Peter Klein: What Is Knowledge? (The Gettier Problem)

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

Interested in regress problems? I discussed them, including the knowledge regress, in my interview with Graham Priest. I also discussed the Agrippan trilemma in my discussion with Jim Slagle.

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
Click here for the full list of episodes!

Sources:

Ad Infinitum: New Essays on Epistemological Infinitism (ed. Peter Klein and Peter Turri)
"The Failures of Dogmatism and a New Pyrrhonism" (Peter Klein)
Outlines of Pyrrhonism (Sextus Empiricus)

Topics discussed:

0:19 - Introduction to Peter Klein
1:21 - The regress problem in epistemology (the Agrippan trilemma)
6:58 - Contemporary coherentism
15:10 - Sexus Empircus and the five modes
21:28 - Problems with foundationalism
30:42 - Mechanics of justification
37:18 - Pyrrhonians as infinitists
44:43 - Psychological certainty
46:25 - How do we find reasons?