163rd Philosophers’ Carnival

We are very happy to be hosting the Philosophers’ Carnival here for the first time and hope that readers will not feel too much baffled by the Indian philosophy milieu. Here is our selection of this month’s philosophical blogs:


  • At NewApps, Catarina Dutilh Novaes speaks about a talk by Helen De Cruz concerning how much of our way to use numbers is a social phenomenon. Children who learn to use numbers, De Cruz and Dutilh Novaes argue, are doing it in the same way they learn by heart rhymes, and not like scientists discovering the world on their own —pure delight for the ears of someone who thinks that we need to learn from other people’s testimony even how to perceive.
  • Again at NewApps, Roberta L. Millstein discusses whether we need to tolerate, accept or just condemn religious beliefs as unwarranted epistemological assumptions. The comment section is perhaps even more interesting for people who are, like I am, intrigued by the epistemology of testimony (including religious beliefs based on testimony).
  • At Aesthetics for birds, Clare Batty discusses the epistemology of the objects of olfactory perception —with interesting outputs for our (primarily visual) concept of space.
  • At the OUP blog, Richard Dawid, Stephan Hartmann and Jan Sprenger discuss about the “no alternative” argument. Sherlock Holmes is obviously cited, but readers of this blog will probably think at the Indian discussion about this argument (called arthāpatti).

Free will and personal identity

It has been a great month for readers passionate about the issue of free will:

  • Jayarava Attwood’s most recent post (on Jayarava’s raves) on karman focuses on free will. The comments further elaborate on the distinction between free will (which might be an illusion) and self-control (which is certainly real).
  • Alfred Mele is hosted by Big Questions and discusses about the interaction of free will and neurosciences, in a way which relates to a post on Flickers of Freedom (asking which neuroscientific evidence would threathen our belief in free will —be sure you read the comment section). An answer (seemingly unaware of the question) is given at Practical Ethics by Joshua Shephard.
  • On a related issue, Alexander Pruss dedicates one of his many interesting posts of April, to pain and whether it has a function (wondering about the connection with free will? We do not withdraw a hand from a hot stove because of pain, but before pain).
  • Again loosely related is David Papineau’s post on will and automatism in sport (does a cricket player have the time to decide what to do? —n some basic form, answers Papineau).

Concerning personal identity:

  • John Danaher at Philosophical Disquisitions has a very interesting series of posts (here is the index) on Agar’s thesis that we need limitations to radical enhancement. Many interesting issues relating to human identity and the role memory plays in it are raised and discussed.
  • Eric Schwitzgebel at The Splintered Mind discusses idealist pantheism (Eric will also host the next edition of the Carnival).

This last post leads nicely to the next section,

Philosophy of religion

  • At the Prosblogion, Kenny Pearce discusses the possibility of Divine deception. The post is interesting for its form (the discussion of a book-chapter —which however can be under understood also by the ones who have not read the book yet—) and for its content (how can a skeptical theist answer to the claim that she could be the victim of God’s deception?).

Logic and Philosophy of Language

  • At Sprachlogik, Tristan Haze discusses about the interactions of concepts and their linguistic representation in a way which evokes Frege’s Morning Star and Kripke’s Pierre and adds a new case: A German Pieter [Peter would have been better, by the way] knows about Clark Kent and his identity with Übermensch [again, the example is not perfect, since the name “Superman” is not translated into German], and comes to know that also Superman is the same as Clark Kent (and, consequently, as Übermensch). The topic could lead also to further ontological consequences.
  • Si parva licet…, you can read my most recent posts on the linguistic theory of apoha here, here (be sure to read the interesting comments) and here.

Political Theory, Practical Ethics and Methodology

  • At NewApps, Helen De Cruz discusses what to do about the implicit biases which make us cite almost only papers written by men and suggests to consider adopting a Bechdel test.
  • At Enviroethics, William Grove-Fanning discusses about the decline of environmentalism and the fact that it (risks to) fail(s) to convey a positive vision of the future, one people can identify with and fight for. The need to be assertive, but not only reactive is a problem common to other movements, I would add. (The epistemological issue of climate-change denial is discussed by Roberta L. Millstein, here).
  • At his new blog, Ralph Wedgwood discusses the methodological problems related to the use of ideal theories, most of all in Political Philosophy (they generate confusion between the problem of the definition of an ideal standard and the problem of its actual realisation). Marcus Arvan answers on the Philosophers’ Cocoon (suggesting that we need an ideal standard in order to understand what is feasible).

History of Philosophy, Comparative Philosophy and why doing it

  • Graham Priest discusses here about the need to study the history of philosophy, since it is an endless mine of potentialities to be actualised (and refers also to Nagarjuna).
  • Tim Connolly at Warp, Weft and Way discusses about whether there are culturally variant intuitions (a big problem for epistemology and for the methodological use of intuitions in philosophy, as well as for the importance of comparative philosophy).
  • On a related vein, Patrick S. O’Donnell at Religious Left Law discusses the paradox of “acting naturally”, which, like falling asleep, is something one cannot attain out of the wish to attain it. The whole post elaborates on Daoism and suggests that there is no longer “only one way to understand the world” (a good beginning for comparative enterprises!).
  • Our own Amod Lele at Love of All Wisdom explains in three post (here, here and here) his attempt to categorise all possible philosophies.
  • Is is possible to discuss philosophically about authors whose ideas are partly or largely lost (from Aristotle to the Buddha)? Justin Whitaker and many commentators discuss the topic on this blog.

The next edition of the Carnival will be hosted at The Splintered Mind. Submissions are open here.

About elisa freschi

My long-term program is to make "Indian Philosophy" part of "Philosophy". You can follow me also on my personal blog: elisafreschi.com, on Academia, on Amazon, etc.

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