Mini-Heap


Good morning! Here’s the latest Mini-Heap: 10 recent items of interest to philosophers (and others interested in philosophy) from the Daily Nous Heap of Links

(The Heap of Links consists partly of suggestions from readers; if you find something online that you think would be of interest to the philosophical community, please send it in for consideration for the Heap.)

  1. You’d think that Scientific American would be a publication that respects expertise — so why do its editors choose to publish error-riddled columns on philosophy by Michael Shermer?
  2. “Our moral relations to people are different from our moral relations to the other animals… — But we have reason for treating what is good for an animal as good absolutely,” says Christine Korsgaard (Harvard) in Prospect Magazine
  3. Love, humor, and the good life — Mark Alfano (Delft) on why we look for a sense of humor in potential mates
  4. “If we measure the danger to our institutions by the number of disagreements they must manage, then diversity is dangerous. However, disagreement can also protect us from danger.” — Ryan Muldoon (Buffalo) offers a clear-eyed and empirically-informed account of the value of diversity
  5. “Human anomalies receive little or no attention in philosophy, because they destabilize those deeply embedded conventions of thought in the field that undergird most of the research that goes on in it.” — an interview with philosopher and artist Adrian Piper, a self-described “anomaly”, about her ideas and art, on the occasion of her MOMA retrospective.
  6. The political philosophy of time — Robert Talisse (Vanderbilt) talks with Elizabeth Cohen (Syracuse) about her innovative “The Political Value of Time: Citizenship, Duration, and Democratic Justice”
  7. “Everyone knows about grade inflation, but this is GPA distortion, and few people looking at a student’s GPA know it happens” — research by philosophy professor David Meeler (Winthrop) on grade forgiveness, discussed at The Atlantic
  8. “I thought I would die. I assumed I would die… because if the symptoms didn’t kill me outright, I’d kill myself.” Travis Rieder (JHU), who has a bioethics research program on the ethical and policy issues surrounding America’s opioid epidemic, discusses his personal experience with opioid withdrawal and its lessons
  9. “You need to be able to disagree, even strongly, with people and still respect and even trust them. This means thinking them people of good will who are trying, as you are, to solve problems, [but] there are limits” — Martha Nussbaum (Chicago) interviewed about fear, trust, and hope in today’s political climate
  10. The philosophy of Mexicanness — an excerpt from a 1951 essay by Emilio Uranga, introduced by Carlos Alberto Sánchez (San José State) & Robert Eli Sanchez, Jr. (Mt. St. Mary’s, LA)
guest
13 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Colin McGinn
Colin McGinn
3 years ago

That was a dreadful article by Michael Shermer and utterly baffling why Scientific American published it. Years ago I was interviewed by them (John Horgan) as a representative of the mysterian position. I was almost glad not to receive a routine citation from Mr. Shermer given the poor quality of his article. And why assume God is a mystery instead of simply that there is no such entity? Is the Devil also a mystery, or Pegasus or fairies? Report

Colin McGinn
Colin McGinn
3 years ago

By contrast, a fine article by Christine Korsgaard on animal rights. Now that’s what I call good public philosophy! Amazing that not more philosophers see the point of the position she defends. I recall back in 1972 when I first encountered these arguments thinking that it wouldn’t be long before they were generally accepted, but the resistance was fierce, especially from so-called ethicists. You wouldn’t believe the nastiness of the arguments we had to have. Now at least the position is not ridiculed and summarily dismissed. Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Colin McGinn
3 years ago

Colin, it seems to me that the argument in her essay can easily be used to make the case for the obligatoriness of a strict, absolute veganism. Is that a view you hold?

(Incidentally, I routinely use your paper, “Animal Minds, Animal Morality” in my Applied Ethics course, along with excerpts from Singer, Cora Diamond’s “Eating Meat and Eating People” and Williams’ “The Human Prejudice.” I am not myself a vegan or a vegetarian.)Report

Colin McGinn
Colin McGinn
3 years ago

Dan: It can be used to generate even stronger conclusions about how we may or may not use animals. This can produce serious moral quandaries. As always there is quite a gap between the ideal and the practicable. Things get complicated quickly. Compare the question of the impact of a general argument against exploiting humans. I think people should first decide where they stand on the general moral issue of animals and then ask how to translate that into their daily practice, allowing for context etc. (I hope your students like my paper!)Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Colin McGinn
3 years ago

Colin: I hesitate to get too in depth into the issues involved here, because I’m not sure how deep into any single one of the links is appropriate in the discussion of these links-posts. I will say that I am quite skeptical of the sort of top-down approach you describe here, and think the terrain looks a lot more like the way Diamond describes it in “Eating Meat and Eating People.”

And yes, your popular is popular, which is why I always use it. The whole unit on animals is popular, in truth.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Colin McGinn
3 years ago

My arm for an edit button. Second paragraph should read “…your paper is popular…”Report

Patrick S. O'Donnell
3 years ago

People wanting to examine the recent literature on animal ethics, rights, and law should find my bibliography useful (if it matters, yes, I am a vegan, for about 15 years, prior to that, and starting roughly in 1977, I was a vegetarian): https://www.academia.edu/4843888/Animal_Ethics_Rights_and_Law_bibliography Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Patrick S. O'Donnell
3 years ago

Well that’s a terrific list. In response to your solicitation, I definitely would add Cora Diamond’s “Eating Meat and Eating People,” as well as Bernard Williams’ “The Human Prejudice.” The McGinn paper I mentioned above is also very good.Report

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Reply to  Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Many thanks: I will indeed add those anon.
Report

Colin McGinn
Colin McGinn
3 years ago

Worth remembering that 40 years ago this was not treated as a serious subject. Now there are bibliographies! Harvard professors stick up for animals! Who says we don’t make moral progress?Report

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Reply to  Colin McGinn
3 years ago

I can’t recall the exact date of the first draft of my list, but it was in the early 2000s. Perhaps our generation will be witness to similar albeit more general philosophical progress when it comes to non-Western worldviews with substantive philosophical traditions and insights (I have lists from these as well on my Academia page). Report

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner
3 years ago

It seems like more work needs to be done to establish that grade forgiveness is problematic. The article mentions “One student highlighted in the study repeated five different courses for better grades, including a math class in which she was eventually able to raise her grade from a D to an A-minus.” Well, it seems to me that this means that the student, who initially did not learn the math, eventually did learn the math very well, and that her transcript now reflects the state of her knowledge. What’s wrong with that?

Meeler says “Institutions are allowing students to manage their grades to get the highest reward,” and the author paraphrases him as saying “as opposed to requiring students to work with faculty members to master the material,” but it seems to me that if a student got a high grade in the course eventually they would have mastered the material one way or another.

Perhaps there’s an argument that this works against lower-income students, who can’t afford to stay in college long enough to retake courses many times, but that isn’t spelled out here.Report

Colin McGinn
Colin McGinn
3 years ago

Perhaps I was too harsh with Michael Shermer. Since writing my first comment on his article we have had some amicable and profitable conversations on the subjects in question, culminating in a podcast I recorded with him. These are difficult topics and I would not wish to discourage people from talking about them (though I reserve the right to correct them when necessary!). Report