Volume 16 (2016)

    On the Interest in Beauty and Disinterest

    Nick Riggle

    June 2016, vol. 16, no. 9, pp. 1-14

    Contemporary philosophical attitudes toward beauty are hard to reconcile with its importance in the history of philosophy. Philosophers used to allow it a starring role in their theories of autonomy, morality, or the good life. But today, if beauty is discussed at all, it is often explicitly denied any such importance. This is due, in part, to the thought that beauty is the object of “disinterested pleasure”. In this paper I clarify the notion of disinterest and develop two general strategies for resisting the emphasis on it, in the hopes of getting a clearer view of beauty’s significance. I present and discuss several literary depictions of the encounter with beauty that motivate both strategies. These depictions illustrate the ways in which aesthetic experience can be personally transformative. I argue that they present difficulties for disinterest theories and suggest we abandon the concept of disinterest to focus instead on the special kind of interest beauty fuels. I propose a closer look at the Platonic thought that beauty is the object of love.

    Color and Shape: A Plea for Equal Treatment

    Brian Cutter

    May 2016, vol. 16, no. 8, pp. 1-11

    Many philosophers, especially in the wake of the 17th century, have favored an inegalitarian view of shape and color, according to which shape is mind-independent while color is mind-dependent. In this essay, I advance a novel argument against inegalitarianism. The argument begins with an intuition about the modal dependence of color on shape, namely: it is impossible for something to have a color without having a shape (i.e. without having some sort of spatial extension, or at least spatial location). I then argue that, given reasonable assumptions, inegalitarianism contradicts this modal-dependence principle. Given the plausibility of the latter, I conclude that we should reject inegalitarianism in favor of some form of egalitarianism—either a subjective egalitarianism on which both shape and color are mind-dependent or an objective egalitarianism on which both shape and color are mind-independent.

    Why I Am Not a Likelihoodist

    Greg Gandenberger

    May 2016, vol. 16, no. 7, pp. 1-22

    Frequentist statistical methods continue to predominate in many areas of science despite prominent calls for "statistical reform." They do so in part because their main rivals, Bayesian methods, appeal to prior probability distributions that arguably lack an objective justification in typical cases. Some methodologists find a third approach called likelihoodism attractive because it avoids important objections to frequentism without appealing to prior probabilities. However, likelihoodist methods do not provide guidance for belief or action, but only assessments of data as evidence. I argue that there is no good way to use those assessments to guide beliefs or actions without appealing to prior probabilities, and that as a result likelihoodism is not a viable alternative to frequentism and Bayesianism for statistical reform efforts in science.

    Why Do Women Leave Philosophy? Surveying Students at the Introductory Level

    Morgan Thompson, Toni Adleberg, Sam Sims, Eddy Nahmias

    March 2016, vol. 16, no. 6, pp. 1-36

    Although recent research suggests that women are underrepresented in philosophy after initial philosophy courses, there have been relatively few empirical investigations into the factors that lead to this early drop-off in women’s representation. In this paper, we present the results of empirical investigations at a large American public university that explore various factors contributing to women’s underrepresentation in philosophy at the undergraduate level. We administered climate surveys to hundreds of students completing their Introduction to Philosophy course and examined differences in women’s and men’s feelings of belonging, comfort, and confidence in the philosophy classroom. We present findings suggesting various factors that contribute to women’s lower willingness to continue in philosophy compared to men’s, including perceptions about intuition-based methods in philosophy, the usefulness of the philosophy major, philosophy as a male discipline, and philosophical abilities as innate talents. We conclude by providing some suggestions for improving undergraduate philosophy courses in ways that would increase women’s willingness to continue in philosophy and may improve the courses for all students.

    Leibniz and the Veridicality of Body Perceptions

    Kenneth L. Pearce

    February 2016, vol. 16, no. 5, pp. 1-17

    According to Leibniz's late metaphysics, sensory perception represents to us as extended, colored, textured, etc., a world which fundamentally consists only of non-spatial, colorless entities, the monads. It is a short step from here to the conclusion that sensory perception radically misleads us about the true nature of reality. In this paper, I argue that this oft-repeated claim is false. Leibniz holds that in typical cases of body perception the bodies perceived really exist and have the qualities, both primary and secondary, they are perceived to have. At the same time, Leibniz holds that our perceptions of these bodies are accurate representations of the monads from which the bodies result. The contrary thesis — that our body perceptions are misrepresentations of the monads — stems from a misunderstanding of Leibniz's theory of confused concepts and his phenomenalist account of the nature of body. Clarifying these issues will have important consequences for our understanding of Leibniz's idealistic metaphysics and the manner in which that metaphysical theory is meant to support mechanistic science.

    Aristotle on Induction and First Principles

    Marc Gasser-Wingate

    February 2016, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 1-20

    Aristotle's cognitive ideal is a form of understanding that requires a sophisticated grasp of scientific first principles. At the end of the Analytics, Aristotle tells us that we learn these principles by induction (epagôgê). But on the whole, commentators have found this an implausible claim: induction seems far too basic a process to yield the sort of knowledge Aristotle's account requires. In this paper I argue that this criticism is misguided. I defend a broader reading of Aristotelian induction, on which there's good sense to be made of the claim that we come to grasp first principles inductively, and show that this reading is a natural one given Aristotle's broader views on scientific learning.

    What Is Sexual Orientation?

    Robin A. Dembroff

    January 2016, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 1-27

    Ordinary discourse is filled with discussions about ‘sexual orientation’. This discourse might suggest a common understanding of what sexual orientation is. But even a cursory search turns up vastly differing, conflicting, and sometimes ethically troubling characterizations of sexual orientation. The conceptual jumble surrounding sexual orientation suggests that the topic is overripe for philosophical exploration. This paper lays the groundwork for such an exploration. In it, I offer an account of sexual orientation – called ‘Bidimensional Dispositionalism’ – according to which sexual orientation concerns what sex[es] and gender[s] of persons one is disposed to sexually engage, and makes no reference to one’s own sex and gender.

    Have I Turned the Stove Off? Explaining Everyday Anxiety

    Neil Levy

    January 2016, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 1-10

    Cases in which we find ourselves irrationally worried about whether we have done something we habitually do (such as turning off the stove) are familiar to most people, but they have received surprisingly little attention in the philosophical literature. In this paper, I argue that available accounts designed to explain superficially similar mismatches between agents’ behavior and their beliefs fail to explain these cases. In the kinds of cases which have served as paradigms for extant accounts, contents are poised to drive behavior in a belief-like way. But the contents of these irrational worries are not poised in a belief-like way. Nor do they cause behavior due to a deficit of rational scrutiny. Rather, these representations cause behavior deviantly: by generating anxiety, which in turn motivates actions aimed at assuaging it.

    Logically Simple Properties and Relations

    Jan Plate

    January 2016, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 1-40

    This paper presents an account of what it is for a property or relation (or ‘attribute’ for short) to be logically simple. Based on this account, it is shown, among other things, that the logically simple attributes are in at least one important way sparse. This in turn lends support to the view that the concept of a logically simple attribute can be regarded as a promising substitute for Lewis’s concept of a perfectly natural attribute. At least in part, the advantage of using the former concept lies in the fact that it is amenable to analysis, where that analysis—i. e., the account put forward in this paper—requires the adoption neither of an Armstrongian theory of universals nor of a primitive notion of naturalness, fundamentality, or grounding.