Entries by admin

Lucky Jim

I just finished re-reading Kingsley Amis’s first novel. If you haven’t read it, you should. It is the most anti-literary literary tour de force ever. The language is flawless while flaunting its “inelegance”. It reminds me of J.L.Austin’s style: challenging you to find a mistake, while grammatically impeccable. It is designed to intimidate and amuse. […]

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Utilitarianism

For the last couple of classes we’ve been discussing utilitarianism (U). U is a consequentialist doctrine, like ethical egoism, though it evaluates actions by the general good, not merely that of the agent. An action is right if and only if it leads to more happiness and less suffering than any other action that could […]

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Tennis

Roger won. But it wasn’t his best tennis. Or was it? He managed to fight off seven set points against Novak. He was having an off day, but still he won the crucial points. Everyone has a bad day in tennis, but some people seem to be able to make a silk purse out of […]

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Egoism

The topic this week was ethical egoism. What a terrible theory it is! An action is right if and only if it’s in your own self interest. That means that helping others, with no benefit to self, is immoral. Rubbish. Particularly pathetic is the argument that apparently atruistic actions are really egoistic, since you get pleasure […]

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Inscrutability of Matter

In my seminar we discussed a paper by Galen Strawson, “Real Materialism”. It’s a stimulating paper that contends that experiences should be declared “physical” just as such, without benefit of reduction. We don’t know enough about matter to rule out their being aspects of it–so why not call them “physical”? I appreciate Galen’s premisses but I resist […]

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Blog 3

My ontology seminar dealt with a paper by Chomsky about physics. He argues that since Newton the mechanical philosophy had to be abandoned, because of the remote operation of gravity, and that physics presents us with mysteries that mark our cognitive limits. As Hume observed, Newton drew the veil on some of nature’s mysteries only […]

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Blog 2

I just finished the first week of the new semester. I’m teaching a course on ethics that I’ve never taught before, starting with ethical relativism. To my surprise, the students put up no resistance to the criticisms I made of relativism–despite the fact that students always tend to be relativists. I like to think they saw […]

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Principia Metaphysica

1. Objects are composed of stuff (“matter”, “energy”, “ectoplasm”). This stuff gives the substance of the object. Is it a substratum? We can say that, though it need not be unknowable. (Truisms quickly turn into absurdities here.) It is not a priori what kind of stuff the world contains, though it is a priori that […]

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