Yearly Archives: 2014

44 posts

Google Doc Templates – Not in Apps for the Organization!?

If you use the free, Standard Edition of Google Apps, your admin control panel will give you the illusion that you can enable the use of document templates on your domain. But it won’t work, and there is a hidden note to this effect in Google Help. So if you want to use doc templates, here’s how to set up a workaround: Log in to your personal Google Account (with the address). Do not log into Google Apps (Standard Edition) for your domain. In Drive, create the Doc you would like to use as a template. Still in your personal account’s Drive, select that […]

Use/Mention Distinction

excerpted from Norman Swartz (1997), “Definitions, Dictionaries, and Meanings.”[oohcol] 1. Science begins with curiosity. 2. Science begins with the nineteenth letter of the English alphabet. Sentence 1 is perfectly sensible (even if what it expresses may be false). But sentence 2 above is a piece of literal nonsense. It is not science itself which begins with a letter; rather it is the word, “science”, that begins with a letter. Sentence 2 should be repaired to read: 1‘. “Science” begins with the nineteenth letter of the English alphabet. To talk (in English) about science (as in sentence 1 above), we use […]

Quine's 1975 passport photo

Quine’s “Two Dogmas of Empiricism”

Originally published in The Philosophical Review 60 (1951): 20-43. Reprinted in W.V.O. Quine, From a Logical Point of View (Harvard University Press, 1953; second, revised, edition 1961), with the following alterations: “The version printed here diverges from the original in footnotes and in other minor respects: §§1 and 6 have been abridged where they encroach on the preceding essay [“On What There Is”], and §§3-4 have been expanded at points.” Except for minor changes, additions and deletions are indicated in interspersed tables. I wish to thank Torstein Lindaas for bringing to my attention the need to distinguish more carefully the […]

Rebekah Frumkin

Socrates and Glaucon on the Home Shopping Network

by REBEKAH FRUMKIN, McSweeneys (19 May 2010) SOCRATES: Good evening, Glaucon. You look troubled. GLAUCON: I am, Socrates. SOCRATES: What worries you so? GLAUCON: Look at my kitchen floor. That brown scum is the stain of fowl livers. I spilled them earlier today and cleaned them up, but the stains remain. SOCRATES: I see. GLAUCON: The stains are attracting countless pests with their foul odor and bacteria. There is no way to clean them up. SOCRATES: Are you sure of that? GLAUCON: Yes. To do so, I would need some convenient means of cleaning and sterilization. SOCRATES: And you are […]

Index of Passages and Vocabulary

Links to passages Aristotle poses the question: How is happiness acquired? Aristotle’s definition of virtue Martin Luther King’s “an unjust law” Martin Luther King’s “difference made legal” Mill’s harm principle Mill’s utility interpreted in light of humanity’s “progressive being” Plato’s definition of courage Plato’s definition of justice Plato’s definition of temperance Plato’s definition of wisdom Plato’s articulation of might-makes-right Plato’s articulation of the challenge to justice Socrates’ daemon/voice Socrates identifies with Apollo Socrates on death Socrates on “obedience to god” Socrates on the examined life Some Vocabulary Ad hoc Ad hominem Ambiguity Appeal to authority Argument by analogy Begging the […]

"Rene Descartes," by Mitch Francis

Descartes’ Discourse on Method

Selections from Descartes’ Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One’s Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences are from Jonathan Bennett’s translation. Some words on his practices: “[Brackets] enclose editorial explanations. Small ·dots· enclose material that has been added, but can be read as though it were part of the original text. Occasional •bullets, and also indenting of passages that are not quotations, are meant as aids to grasping the structure of a sentence or a thought. Every four-point ellipsis . . . . indicates the omission of a brief passage that seems to present more difficulty than […]

"Rene Descartes," by Mitch Francis

Descartes’ Passions of the Soul

Selections from Descartes’ Passions of the Soul is from Jonathan Bennett’s translation. Some words on his practices: “[Brackets] enclose editorial explanations. Small ·dots· enclose material that has been added, but can be read as though it were part of the original text. Occasional •bullets, and also indenting of passages that are not quotations, are meant as aids to grasping the structure of a sentence or a thought. Every four-point ellipsis . . . . indicates the omission of a brief passage that seems to present more difficulty than it is worth. Longer omissions are reported between brackets.”[oohcol] [commentary][phil writer=”Lalor”] Passions […]

Analyzing Concepts

Thanks to Jim Pryor for this Guide to Analyzing Concepts.[oohcol]An analysis is a kind of definition. Distinguish, though, between stipulative definitions and analyses of pre-existing concepts. A person may stipulate: In this essay I shall use the word “grog” to mean such-and-such. As long as such stipulations are clear and consistent and the author consistently holds to them, there is no objection. If a philosopher asks a question like “What is death?” on the other hand, he’s not just after some stipulative answer. He wants to know what death really is. He wants to know what we’re thinking and talking […]

Some Good and Bad Forms of Argument

Thanks to Jim Pryor for this Guide to Some Good and Bad Forms of Argument.[oohcol] Reductio ad absurdum The following is a valid form of argument: “If P, then Q. But not-Q. So not-P.” Some students initially have difficulty understanding why this is a valid form of argument. Think of it this way: We know that if P, then Q. Now suppose for the sake of argument that P is true. Then Q would have to be true, too, right? Since if P, then Q. But we know that Q is not true!–this is one of our premises. So our […]

Vocabulary Describing Arguments

Thanks to Jim Pryor for this Guide to Vocabulary Describing Arguments.[oohcol]Most of the arguments philosophers concern themselves with are–or purport to be–deductive arguments. Mathematical proofs are a good example of deductive argument. Most of the arguments we employ in everyday life are not deductive arguments but rather inductive arguments. Inductive arguments are arguments which do not attempt to establish a thesis conclusively. Rather, they cite evidence which makes the conclusion somewhat reasonable to believe. The methods Sherlock Holmes employed to catch criminals (and which Holmes misleadingly called “deduction”) were examples of inductive argument. Other examples of inductive argument include: concluding […]

What is an Argument?

Thanks to Jim Pryor for this Guide to Arguments.[oohcol]An argument is not the same thing as a quarrel. The goal of an argument is not to attack your opponent, or to impress your audience. The goal of an argument is to offer good reasons in support of your conclusion, reasons that all parties to your dispute can accept. Nor is an argument just the denial of what the other person says. Even if what your opponent says is wrong and you know it to be wrong, to resolve your dispute you have to produce arguments. And you haven’t yet produced […]

Guidelines on Grades

Thanks to Jim Pryor for these Guidelines on Grades. [oohcol] [commentary][phil writer=”Lalor”] In general, grades in the ‘A’-range reflect exceptional, creative/critical thinking; ‘B’-range grades reflect a solid/good grasp of content; ‘C’-range, satisfactory work; ‘D’-range, inadequate, but passing; and ‘F’, failing work. In particular cases, you receive guidelines for each writing assignment. But between universal and particular, it’s possible to “get a sense” of what constitutes good work in philosophy, and of how a grading scheme might capture degrees of good. To that end, I recommend a careful look at the Argumentative Essay, Short Response, and Excellent Paragraph rubrics I use. […]

Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper

Thanks to Jim Pryor for these Guidelines on Writing a Philosophy Paper. [oohcol][shadowbox styl=”padding: 8px;”][phil writer=”Lalor” styl=”float: left; margin: 6px;”]Expert tip: Learn a lot about writing philosophy well: Before you write, and as you write, – study this document, and – study a good grading rubric. [/shadowbox] Philosophical writing is different from the writing you’ll be asked to do in other courses. Most of the strategies described below will also serve you well when writing for other courses, but don’t automatically assume that they all will. Nor should you assume that every writing guideline you’ve been given by other teachers […]

Guidelines on Reading Philosophy

Thanks to Jim Pryor for these Guidelines on Reading Philosophy. [oohcol] It will be difficult for you to make sense of some of the articles we’ll be reading. This is partly because they discuss abstract ideas that you’re not accustomed to thinking about. They may also use technical vocabulary which is new to you. Sometimes it won’t be obvious what the overall argument of the paper is supposed to be. The prose may be complicated, and you may need to pick the article apart sentence by sentence. Here are some tips to make the process easier and more effective. Skim […]

"Schopenhauer," by Mitch Francis

Schopenhauer on Pessimism

[commentary] Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher. This piece comes from The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer: Studies in Pessimism, vol. 4 (Penn State Electronic Classics)[/commentary] [oohead styl=”padding-top: 4px;”]On the Suffering of the World[/oohead] by Arthur Schopenhauer [phil]Unless suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim. It is absurd to look upon the enormous amount of pain that abounds everywhere in the world, and originates in needs and necessities inseparable from life itself, as serving no purpose at all and the result of mere chance. […]

Stuffed Poblano Pepper Delight

Ingredients 4 good sized peppers One tube of 3.5 oz chèvre 8 oz block of cream cheese the other things mentioned below Instructions Soften the cheeses (e.g., let them sit at room temperature). Bake peppers empty about 20 minutes at 350 degrees (F). Meanwhile, blend the cheeses (e.g., fork mix). Add sautéed garlic, olive oil, garden herbs, breadcrumbs (and anything else you want: onion, shallot, chive). Stuff the peppers with the mix. Bake for another 20 minutes. Save leftover mixture for bagels.

Turnip Baked Fries

Michelle made this tonight from our first turnip harvest. We’ve discovered that there’s more to turnips than mashing or steaming them! Turnip prep. First, peel three good sized turnips; slice them a little less than a half-inch thick, and cut them into french-fry shapes. Next, coat them in olive oil (or the oil of your choice). The dry mix In a separate bag, combine half a cup of grated parmesan cheese, and a teaspoon of each of the following: garlic salt, paprika, onion powder, and a dash of what seems best to you. Combine and bake Shake the turnip fries […]

A Philosophical Glossary for Beginners

Thanks to Jim Pryor for this Creative Commons glossary.[oohcol] Ad hoc You call something ad hoc when it’s introduced for a particular purpose, instead of for some general, antecedently motivated reason. So, for instance, an ad hoc decision is a decision you make when there’s no general rule or precedent telling you what to do. Philosophers sometimes accuse their opponents of making ad hoc hypotheses (or ad hoc stipulations, or ad hoc amendments to their analyses, etc.). These are hypotheses (or stipulations or amendments) adopted purely for the purpose of saving a theory from difficulty or refutation, without any independent […]
Bertrand Russell

Russell’s “On Denoting”

Originally printed in Mind, 1905; text from Logic and Knowledge, ed. Robert Marsh, 1956. [oohcol] [oohead]”On Denoting,” by Bertrand Russell[/oohead] By a `denoting phrase’ I mean a phrase such as any one of the following: a man, some man, any man, every man, all men, the present King of England, the presenting King of France, the center of mass of the solar system at the first instant of the twentieth century, the revolution of the earth round the sun, the revolution of the sun round the earth. Thus a phrase is denoting solely in virtue of its form. We may […]

Anselm of Canterbury

Anselm’s Ontological Argument

The full Proslogium is available from The Medieval Sourcebook. The notes in the text are based on those of Paul Halsall, and the translation is David Burr’s. Special thanks to Gideon Rosen for the use of his commentary on Anselm’s argument. [oohcol] [oohead]The Ontological Argument of Anselm of Canterbury[/oohead] [commentary] [phil writer=”Lalor”]Anselm of Canterbury (1033—1109) was among the most important philosophical and theological thinkers of the eleventh century. He is most remembered for his “Ontological Argument” in favor of God’s existence. That argument is excerpted here, from the beginning of his Proslogium. The main argument is followed by philosopher Gideon […]

Quine's 1975 passport photo

Quine’s “On What There Is”

by Willard Van Orman Quine (Review of Metaphysics 2:1, 1948). Reprinted in 1953 From a Logical Point of View. Harvard University Press. [oohcol] A curious thing about the ontological problem is its simplicity. It can be put in three Anglo-Saxon monosyllables: ‘What is there?’ It can be answered, moreover, in a word—‘Everything’—and everyone will accept this answer as true. However, this is merely to say that there is what there is. There remains room for disagreement over cases; and so the issue has stayed alive down the centuries. Suppose now that two philosophers, McX and I, differ over ontology. Suppose […]

"Rene Descartes," by Mitch Francis

Descartes & the Mind-Body Problem

Our translation of Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy comes from Elizabeth Haldane, The Philosophical Works of Descartes. Vol. II. 1934, pp. 32-3. [oohcol] [oohead class=”centerhead”]Descartes: Some Arguments for – and Explanations of – Dualism[/oohead] Here below are classic excerpts from Descartes’ Meditations in which he argues that the mind and body are distinct substances. His arguments depend on what’s now called Leibniz’s law: If a = b, then a must have all the properties b has; conversely, if b and a fail to share all properties, then they are not identical. Be sure you “see” how Leibniz’ law works here. […]


I propose that: [meme]’badass‘ = (awesomly) cool + (intimidatingly) powerful[/meme] I admit that the Neil deGrasse Tyson “badass-meme” is taking the term in a different direction. God love him.

I'm Dangerous

“I think, therefore I earn”

[oohead]Philosophy graduates are suddenly all the rage with employers. What can they possibly have to offer?[/oohead]by Jessica Shepherd, The Guardian (19 November 2007) “A degree in philosophy? What are you going to do with that then?” Philosophy students will tell you they’ve been asked this question more times than they care to remember. “The response people seem to want is a cheery shrug and a jokey ‘don’t know’,” says Joe Cunningham, 20, a final-year philosophy undergraduate at Heythrop College, University of London. A more accurate comeback, according to the latest statistics, is “just about anything I want”. Figures from the […]

Stretching Beyond

Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore, we are saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we are saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own; therefore, we are saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness. ~Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (1952)

Wall Street

The US is not a democracy but an oligarchy, study concludes

by JC Sevcik, UPI, April 16, 2014 WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) — Oligarchy is a form of government in which power is vested in a dominant class and a small group exercises control over the general population. A new study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities concluded that the U.S. government represents not the interests of the majority of citizens but those of the rich and powerful. “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” analyzed extensive data, comparing nearly 1,800 U.S. policies enacted between 1981 and 2002 with the expressed preferences of average and affluent Americans as […]

Out of Body Experience

How to Have an Out-of-Body Experience

Greg Stevens, Science Correspondent, The Kernel, Thursday, 10 April 2014 You can have an out of body experience right now, and it isn’t even that hard. Some people can do it more easily than others, and it may take a little practice. But it is something that anybody can do, and it can be done scientifically. Senses and the self Let’s start with a question: Where do you feel like the center of your “self” is right now? Most people feel like the center of their consciousness—the vantage from which they are experiencing the world—is somewhere behind their eyes. This […]

Karen Warren is an ecofeminist scholar, and was Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Macalester College in Minnesota.

Warren’s Introduction to EcoFeminism

This piece was originally published in Michael E. Zimmerman, J. Baird Callicott, George Sessions, Karen J. Warren, and John Clark (Eds.), Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology (Prentice-Hall, 1993), pp. 253-267. [oohcol] [commentary] Karen J. Warren is a feminist philosopher who has published essays on ecofeminism and edited several special issues on ecofeminism for Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy and the American Philosophical Association, Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy. Warren is completing three books on ecological feminism, one co-authored with Jim Cheney and entitled Ecological Feminism, and two anthologies on ecofeminism. Warren also conducts workshops on environmental […]

Aldo Leopold on Rimrock above the Rio Gavilan in northern Mexico

Leopold’s Land Ethic

This piece comes from A Sand County Almanac (Oxford University Press, 1948). [oohcol][commentary][oohead] About Leopold*[/oohead][shadowbox]* – This is the blurb from pp. 227-228 of the 1987 printing of the book.[/shadowbox] Aldo Leopold was born in Burlington, Iowa, on January 11 1887. As a boy he developed a lively interest in field ornithology and natural history and after schooling in Burlington, at Lawrenceville Prep in New Jersey, and the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale, he enrolled in the Yale forestry school, the first graduate school of forestry in the United States. Graduating with a masters in 1909, he joined the U.S. […]

John Seed

Seed’s “Beyond Anthropocentrism”

This text is from Thinking Like a Mountain: Toward a Council of All Beings in John Seed, Joanna Macy, Arne Naess & Pat Fleming (New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, 1988). First published in Ecophilosophy 5 (Sierra College, California) and reprinted in Pantheism, Oikos, Awakening in the Nuclear Age, and several Australian journals. [oohcol] by John Seed “But the time is not a strong prison either. A little scraping of the walls of dishonest contractor’s concrete Through a shower of chips and sand makes freedom. Shake the dust from your hair. This mountain sea-coast is real For it reaches out far into […]

David Abram

Abram’s “Merleau-Ponty and the Voice of the Earth”

Originally published in  Environmental Ethics, volume 10 (1988), pp. 101-120. Thanks to David Abram for permission to post this piece here. [oohcol] by David Abram [oohead]Introduction[/oohead] Slowly, inexorably, members of our species are beginning to catch sight of a world that exists beyond the confines of our specific culture—beginning to recognize, that is, that our own personal, social, and political crises reflect a growing crisis in the biological matrix of life on the planet. The ecological crisis may be the result of a recent and collective perceptual disorder in our species, a unique form of myopia which it now forces […]

"Pascal," by Mitch Francis

Pascal’s Wager for God

Our selections come from the W. F. Trotter translation (introduced by T. S. Eliot) (New York: Dutton, 1958) of Pascal’s Pensées. [oohcol] [commentary][phil writer=”Lalor”]The mathematician, geometer, physicist, inventor, theologian, and philosopher Blaise Pascal lived from 1623 until 1662 – just after he turned 39. At 16, his first serious work in an essay “On Conics” (about the Mystical Hexagram), states what is now called “Pascal’s Theorem.” The prodigy Pascal shaped economics, probability theory, and computing, among other disciplines. He even invented and created over 20 mechanical calculators – two of which are still on display in Paris and Dresden. After […]

"Wittgenstein," by Mitch Francis

Wittgenstein’s Serious Games

[oohcol] [commentary][oohead]The Investigator[/oohead][phil writer=”Lalor”] The philosopher of language Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) argued that there is no set of concepts that capture reality thanks to their unambiguous “meanings”; deep down, meaning rides on game-like social practices. Coming… Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui […]

"Alan Turing," by Mitch Francis

Turing’s Test for Personhood

Turing, A.M. (1950), “Computing machinery and intelligence.” Mind, 59, 433-460. [oohcol] [shadowbox]* – Turing, A.M. (1936). “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungs Problem.” Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society. 2 (1937) 42: 230–265.[/shadowbox][commentary][oohead]Turing – The Man[/oohead][phil writer=”Lalor”]Alan Mathison Turing (23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) was a father of modern computer science. In a 1936 paper *, Turing invented a hypothetical, automatic computing machine; and by 1948, he was working on the British Manchester Mark I computer project. From late 1938, Turing devoted immense mental power to the cryptanalysis of the Axis’ Enigma code, for decryption […]

"Rene Descartes," by Mitch Francis

Descartes’ Meditations

This translation of Descartes’ 1641 Meditations is from the 1911 edition of The Philosophical Works of Descartes (Cambridge University Press), translated from the Latin by Elizabeth S. Haldane.1 [avatars] Download an imperfect PDF of this page. [oohcol] [oohead class=”centerhead”]Introduction to Descartes’ Meditations[/oohead][phil writer=”Lalor”][commentary]Warning: The text you are about to read was placed on the Index of Prohibited Books in 1663 by Pope Alexander VII, just over a decade after the death of its author, René Descartes (1595-1650). As if that were not itself a significant enough achievement, here are but a few representative lines from his “résumé”: Listed under “Mathematician”: […]

NYU sociologist Andrew Ross

Are Student Loans Immoral?

by Andrew Ross, The Daily Beast (09.27.12). Millions of grads are saddled with unpayable student loans, yet colleges still say they’re a sound investment. NYU professor Andrew Ross asks if it’s time to stop repaying the loans. [commentary styl=”width: 60%; float: right; margin-left: 20px;”][phil writer=”Lalor”]Andrew Ross is an NYU sociologist who argues that the state of student loans – which students pay back at a rate higher than what the government itself borrows for – is unethical. Unwieldy loans have become “normalized,” their significance hardly noticed – until we step back from anecdotes to take in the data:[quote]41 percent of […]