News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on July 2, 2011 in News

Paper of the week: Dietrich, There is No Progress in Philosophy.

New AI technology confirms and challenges standard theories of Biblical authorship.

New podcast of 10-minute philosophy puzzles.

     

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    { 18 comments… read them below or add one }

    Zeb July 2, 2011 at 6:43 am

    I’m reminded of the Dr Who episode Silence in the Library. Are these death twitches, or just the mumblings of a patient in coma who will one day resume conversation?

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    Reginald Selkirk July 2, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Paper of the week: Dietrich, There is No Progress in Philosophy.

    Abstract: Except for a patina of twenty-first century modernity, in the form of logic and language, philosophy is exactly the same now was it ever was; it has made no progress whatsoever. We philosophers wrestle with the exact same problems the Pre-Socratics wrestled with…

    The invention of science was a good development, and one not popular with the Pre-Socratics.

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    soupsayer July 2, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Paper of the week: Dietrich, There is No Progress in Philosophy.

    If you haven’t seen it, Does Philosophy Still Matter? [The New School] has a few interesting moments.

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    Rob July 3, 2011 at 6:36 am

    Being somewhat scientistic, I expected to find that no progress paper congenial. But the author picks out ethics and metaphysics, which I grant philosophy has made no progress on, and concludes that all of philosophy makes no progress. What about logic? What about science? It seems to me philosophy does make progress in some areas. I hold out hope for ethics. But metaphysics is hopeless.

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    cl July 3, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Science is progress in philosophy.

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    Leo July 3, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Paper of the week: Dietrich, There is No Progress in Philosophy.

    Well, compared to Science it has made too little progress I would say, but no progress at all ? I think knowing which theories are false can get us closer to the truth and also we could know where there is no dispute on something. For example, If theory X, Y and Z, are the only possible theories and if they all agree on Conclusion C, then we know it has to be true. That’s something and it could be very important.

    But does that means philosophers are parasites and we better stop doing philosophy? I don’t think so, maybe taking some example from science:

    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Alva Edison.

    Someday we can find what we are looking for, it’s a worthwhile quest because the answers are very valuable. For example, Morality.

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    MarkD July 3, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    New AI technology confirms and challenges standard theories of Biblical authorship.

    Doubtful it is all that new. See:

    Frederick Mosteller and David L. Wallace. Inference and Disputed Authorship: The Federalist. Addison-Wesley, Reading, Mass., 1964.

    An amazing application of Computational Linguistics before the field existed.

    I’ll inevitably get the ACL paper at some point to confirm.

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    drj July 3, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    From the paper about progress in philosophy:

    Except for a tiny handful of writings (Mill’s on women’s rights, for example; Locke on individual
    liberty and equal rights), philosophers were, and still are, not at the vanguard of any
    advance in morality and ethics. Philosophers didn’t discover and start the push for
    animals rights,
    civil rights, rights for the disabled, the disenfranchised, they didn’t 6
    push first, before everyone else, for increased diversity and respect for all humans
    and all life.

    I don’t know about the others, but didn’t the animal rights get its inspiration primarily from the seminal work of Peter Singer, the book “Animal Liberation”? If so, that at least, seems like a clear example of philosophical progress.

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    Taranu July 4, 2011 at 4:20 am

    @MarkD and all those interested,
    the link to the paper about Biblical authorship is Unsupervised Decomposition of a Document into Authorial Components and is freely accessible by clicking on the link below:

    http://www.dershowitz.net/files/unsupervised-decomposition-of-a-document-into-authorial-components.pdf

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    Tio July 4, 2011 at 5:17 am

    @ Cl
    Care to clarify? Science is now, usually, considered distinct from philosophy.

    @ Rob

    Same thing. I don’t think the paper is talking about chemistry or physics, etc. etc. These fields are now generally considered distinct from philosophy, unlike in the days of the ancient Greeks. It appears (in as far as we can trust our senses) that science has made considerable progress. But it does NOT follow from that, that philosophy has made considerable progress.

    Metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology, the philosophy of science, etc., have made no visible progress. Logic has arguably made progress, even though the philpapers survey shows their is still quite a bit of disagreement in this area as well. And of course, we can’t KNOW if progress has been made in any branch of philosophy until some key questions are answered in epistemology. I.e. Are the laws of classical logic properly basic beliefs? I feel that progress in philosophy will need to be made from the ground up, starting with epistemology and metaphysics, if progress is possible at all.

    @ Drj
    It’s not philosophical progress at all, unless you assume that utilitarianism is correct. If some type of moral skepticism is correct, than there’s quite obviously no philosophical progress (unless you’re stretching the definition of ‘philosophical’ progress to the point where it’s almost meaningless).

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    Tio July 4, 2011 at 5:33 am

    On another note, Massimo actually covered this topic briefly in one of his podcasts. It appeared to me at least, that he was in denial about the level of disagreement in philosophy. When asked by Julia, his co-host, about areas of agreement in philosophy, he gave two basic shitty examples. One of them was a question of meta-philosophy, which I can’t remember the details of, offhand. The other area of wide agreement he gave was in logic (specifically, how valid/invalid and sound/unsound arguments work). But even if he is right about the broad agreement in these two areas, it still leaves open the remaining 99.9% of philosophy where this is virtually no agreement. I really wish Julia had pressed him for more, and better examples of agreement.

    I don’t remember if it was from a paper linked off here, but I agree with the economist who stated, that unlike in economics, the amount of disagreement and lack of progress in philosophy, is NOT overstated by outsiders.

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    Yair July 4, 2011 at 11:03 am

    I think philosophy has made some progress, it is just that philosophers haven’t. Philosophy doesn’t have the methodology to weed out bad thinkers, so philosophy departments are essentially opinion-clubs. When looked at from the point of view of the skeptical-rationalistic school of thought, however, there have definitely been correct arguments and good points raised in the past, which makes for the type of progress I’m interested in. Much of said “progress” is rediscovering what others have known (my favorite example is how Parmenides is right that time doesn’t flow), and I think many philosophers that attribute themselves to this “club” aren’t real members of it, but still.

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    antiplastic July 4, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    “Philosophy hasn’t made any progress? – If somebody scratches the spot where he has an itch, do we have to see some progress? Isn’t genuine scratching otherwise, or genuine itching itching? And can’t this reaction to an irritation continue in the same way for a long time before a cure for the itching is discovered?” — Ludwig Wittgenstein

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    Rob July 4, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    “Philosophy hasn’t made any progress? – If somebody scratches the spot where he has an itch, do we have to see some progress? Isn’t genuine scratching otherwise, or genuine itching itching? And can’t this reaction to an irritation continue in the same way for a long time before a cure for the itching is discovered?”— Ludwig Wittgenstein

    Wittgenstein is confused. To say that philosophy does not make progress is not the same as to say we should not do philosophy.

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    clamat July 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Philosophy scratches the itch, thereby making it worse.

    Dermatology diagnoses the itch as psoriasis and prescribes topical corticosteroids – and no more scratching!

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    cl July 5, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Tio,

    Science was born from philosophy. It is philosophy refined, clarified, and tested.

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    antiplastic July 5, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Wittgenstein is confused. To say that philosophy does not make progress is not the same as to say we should not do philosophy.

    Isn’t he lucky, then, that that is precisely his point?

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    MarkD July 7, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    @Taranu

    Thanks. Two of my onetime bosses are referenced ;-) Small world.

    More Support Vector Machines…

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