Thursday, September 22, 2016

An argument against pain being identical with c-fibre firing

Here's the slide I promised to make available from yesterday's talk. For X and Y substitute eg pain and c-fibre firing or red and reflects light of wavelength x. Note the argument does not work for heat and molecular motion, or water and H2O, because premise (iv) is then false. But is the argument cogent for pain and c-fibre firing?

Notice that, unusually, this conceivability argument turns not on what is conceivable (e.g. pain without c-fibre firing, zombies, etc.), but on what is inconceivable.

Why suppose (iv) is true for pain? Because it appears to be part of the concept of pain that one cannot be mistaken about whether one is experiencing it (at least in core cases). Hence there is a conceptual obstacle to imagining fool's pain (fool's pain = feels like pain but isn't really pain). But if pain were c-fibre firing, no such conceptual obstacle would exist (or indeed would exist if pain was potentially identifiable with any physical property at all; hence this conceptual truth about pain (that fool's pain is impossible) entails pain cannot be identified with any physical property at all).

This is the argument I attribute to Kripke in his Naming and Necessity. Notice it differs from that commonly attributed to Kripke by eg Brian Loar. As applied to colour, the above argument also seems to me to be presented by Colin McGinn in his The Subjective View as an argument against identifying red with a physical property such as reflecting a particular wavelength of light, and as part of his a priori, conceptual case for saying colour is a secondary quality.

For more see my paper Loar's Defence of Physicalism.



Monday, July 25, 2016

The X-Claim Argument Against Religious Belief - pre-publication draft


Forthcoming in Religious Studies. (Image Flickr creative commons, by Marcel Dzama)
The X-claim argument against religious belief

Introduction

This paper outlines an argument against religious belief: the X-claim argument. The argument is novel at least in the sense that it has not yet been clearly articulated or addressed before in the philosophical literature. However, the argument is closely related to two more familiar varieties of argument currently receiving philosophical attention, namely: (i) arguments from religious diversity, and (ii) naturalistic debunking arguments (e.g. Freudian, Marxist, and evolutionary). I set out the X-claim argument, show that it has some prima facie plausibility, distinguish it from these other two arguments with which it might easily be confused, and, finally, explain why it has some significant advantages over these more familiar arguments against religious belief.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Believing Bullshit and the Jeremy Corbyn narrative


As a Corbyn supporter I am now constantly, worriedly, checking my own thinking for confirmation bias, etc. regarding Corbyn - and I do catch myself on occasion accepting a claim uncritically, etc. (though notice that on twitter I just exposed a false claim made by Corbynites about some Corbyn critics).

Given the number of people pointing a finger at people like me and saying 'Your mind has been melded', 'You're in a cult', etc. I am now getting really, really cautious. It would be ironic indeed if, as author of a book titled 'Believing Bullshit', I had become enmeshed in and seduced by a bullshit narrative.

However, I do remain just gobsmacked at the (it seems to me) inability of smart, clever people to recognise the extraordinarily dubious nature of most of the claims made about Corbyn and his supporters.

P.S. I had a conversation with another Corbyn supporter about this last night, who came up to me and said: 'I keep thinking - am I going mad? Have I fallen into some sort of cult without realising it?'

P.P.S. one reason I keep banging on about Corbyn is that I am fascinated by the psychology of the situation - clearly some people are making *spectacularly* bad judgements given the available evidence. Which side (or sides) are doing so, and why? I do hope it's not me! 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Various anecotes about Corbynite thugs unravelling


The story about Stella Creasy's home being besieged by baying mob turned out to false (it was a peace vigil outside her office, as Stella later herself graciously acknowledged). The story about a Corbynite anti-semitically abusing MP Luciana Berger was also wrong - the culprit was right-wing fascist. And now the story about the brick through Angela Eagle's constituency office window is unravelling - see the video.

Note (1) the window was not to Eagle's office window, but to a stairwell in the same quite large building (with 6 different occupants). (2) Eagle's office was clearly identifiable (with Labour Party stickers) and easily accessible, but untouched.

No doubt there are thugs amongst the many many thousands of Corbyn supporters, but impression that there's a serious problem sufficient to warrant banning CLP meetings is based on entirely anecdotal evidence and many of the anecdotes are turning out to be unreliable.

ps and here's yet another bullshit story smearing corbynites: http://m.luton-dunstable.co.uk/…/story-29502451-…/story.html

Yet another anecdote begins to look highly dubious - alleged homophobic bullying of Eagle at a meeting she didn't even attend? http://www.thecanary.co/2016/07/20/angela-eagle-quit-labour-leadership-race-left-time-bomb-detonate-behind/

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Heythrop College COULD be saved in deal with Roehampton, but it seems it won't be.


                                                                                                                        1 July 2016

To the Editor, The Tablet

Re: Heythrop College

As members of staff at Heythrop College in solidarity with the Principal and Governing Body we are writing to clarify any potential misunderstandings arising from your news item on the proposed partnership with the University of Roehampton.

Since the announcement in 2015 that Heythrop could no longer continue as an autonomous college within the University of London, the Governors and the Society of Jesus have been committed to finding a way in which its mission and work, including its ecclesiastical faculties within the Bellarmine Institute, will continue in a new form after 2018.  Eight months of creative and positive discussions with the University of Roehampton have concluded that a merger between both institutes would be financially viable and academically and pastorally fruitful in furthering the Jesuit intellectual apostolate in Britain. The Society of Jesus has sought the support of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, in order to continue the mission of the College. Staff confidently hope to receive support for a merger that holds so much promise.

We are confident that the Catholicity of the Bellarmine Institute and Heythrop College within the context of the University of Roehampton will be safeguarded by robust governance structures.  The content of the ecclesiastical degrees taught and the academic staff teaching in the Bellarmine Institute were approved by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 2013.  Any modifications are subject to re-approval by the Congregation. We are also confident of the positive benefits that a Heythrop-Roehampton partnership would have for continuing the close and positive co-operation with St Mary's University that already exists.  The two institutions are not rivals, but each works collaboratively out of its own distinctive tradition, enhancing the richness of Catholic Higher Education provision in the UK.  We understand the Vice Chancellor of the University of Roehampton has proposed to continue the collaborative partnerships between these institutions in a UK Higher Education context where such cross-institutional partnerships are essential for research funding and impact beyond academia. Together with Leeds Trinity, Liverpool Hope and Newman Universities, Heythrop College, the University of Roehampton and St Mary's University already collaborate as partners in The Cathedrals Group of academic institutions, committed to promoting principles of social justice and the public good in UK Higher Education.

Aided by one of the finest theological academic libraries in the country, Heythrop's Catholic ethos is open, critically engaging and transformative in the rich tradition of Ignatian thought as the hallmark of the College's engagement with the world. This is substantiated by the most recent assessment of research publications (Research Excellence Framework 2014) which praised Heythrop's 'impact' beyond academia placing it in the top ten of institutions in the country.[1]

It would be a tragedy with reverberations on the international stage if Heythrop College should be forced to close, despite the development of a financially viable model and an academically rich curriculum to enable its mission and work to continue. Such a loss would raise serious questions within and outside the Church worldwide as to the credibility of the Catholic Church in England and Wales in fostering and protecting serious academic study of philosophy and theology. Support for the proposed Heythrop-Roehampton partnership is consistent with concerns to safeguard the Catholicity of the education of Catholic clergy and laity in England and Wales and to strengthen collaborative partnerships between academic institutions in the Catholic tradition in the UK Higher Education sector. 

Yours sincerely

Staff of Heythrop College

BELOW IS THE FULL VERSION OF THE LETTER SENT (ABOVE IS HARD-COPY PUBLISHED VERSION)

As members of staff at Heythrop College in solidarity with the Principal and Governing Body we are writing to clarify the situation regarding the college’s proposed partnership with the University of Roehampton.

Since the announcement in 2015 that Heythrop could no longer continue as an autonomous college within the University of London, the Governors and the Society of Jesus have been committed to finding a way in which its mission and work, including its ecclesiastical faculties for educating priests and others for pontifical degrees within the Bellarmine Institute, will continue in a new form after 2018. Eight months of creative and positive discussions with the University of Roehampton have concluded that a merger between both institutes would be financially viable and academically and pastorally fruitful. The Society of Jesus has sought the support of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, in order to continue the mission of the College. Staff confidently hoped to receive support for a merger that holds so much promise but there are signs that this support may not be forthcoming.

Staff are confident that the Catholicity of the Bellarmine Institute and Heythrop College within the context of the University of Roehampton will be safeguarded by robust governance structures. The content of the ecclesiastical degrees taught and the academic staff teaching in the Bellarmine Institute were approved by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 2013. Any modifications are subject to re-approval by the Congregation.

The Heythrop-Roehampton partnership constitutes the only viable option on the table. The funds generously provided by the Society of Jesus by means of its charitable trust: Trustees for Roman Catholic Purposes (TRCP) do not allow for the continuation of Heythrop beyond the academic year 2017-18.

Within a year the vast majority of staff will be made redundant and steps will begin to sell the property and disperse and dispose of the library. Thus the practical consequences of a decision by the Cardinal and the Bishops' Conference not to support the current partnership with the University of Roehampton will effectively be a decision to terminate Heythrop College, bringing to an end a 400 year history, and creating an unbridgeable gap in the provision of Catholic Higher Education in Britain.

It would be a tragedy with reverberations on the international stage if Heythrop College should be forced to close. Such a loss would raise serious questions within and outside the Church worldwide as to the credibility of the Catholic Church in England and Wales in fostering and protecting serious academic study of philosophy and theology. Support for the proposed Heythrop-Roehampton partnership is consistent with concerns to safeguard the Catholicity of the education of Catholic clergy and laity in England and Wales and to strengthen collaborative partnerships between academic institutions in the Catholic tradition in the UK Higher Education sector.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Why I back Corbyn


Here are some not very worked out thoughts on the current state of the Labour party, and a sketch of why I very strongly back Corbyn (and will be looking for members to start deselecting the leading Blairite saboteurs).

My belief is that the UK economic train is heading back in the direction of Victorian Britain, with all the social inequality and injustice that went with it. It's in the nature of the economic train to run in that direction unless some pretty serious action is taken.

Under the Blairites, the economic train continued to move in that direction, but the Blairites fought hard to slow the train down, and with some success. I approved of that, of course. With the Tories back in the brakes are off and the train is now running full tilt.

So, I think that with either Tories or Blairites, we end up at the same destination: Victorian Britain. We just get there at different speeds. 

The working class can see the direction of travel is always the same, and so say, 'No point in voting, they're all the same'. I think that, as the injustice increases, and their frustration and desperation mount, so the risk of them sliding into populist fascism goes up and up,

What to do? We need to put the train into reverse. The Blairites won't do that. Only someone like Corbyn will do it. I am not wedded to Corbyn the man, but I am wedded to the ambition of reversing the train. If there were a younger, super-charismatic person cut from the same train-reversing cloth as Corbyn, I'd be happy to see them take the reins of the Party instead. But there is no one like that. And even if any one like that was promoted to Leader, they'd probably be sabotaged by Blairites again.

I am not at all optimistic about reversing the direction of the train, but I see no alternative to trying.

So when Labour folk say we need to drop Corbyn in order to win the next General Election, I say: 1. I have my doubts that we'll win even with a Blairite, 2. Which of his policies do you reject? 3. Whom do you suggest instead? Until they come up with answers to these questions that I can approve - because they are train-reversing - I'll stick with Corbyn.

Winning the next General Election by switching to a Blairite (or at least someone who won't do more than tinker with the brakes, so winning Blairite approval) might sound attractive to some (those hoping to get Murdoch and Dacre back onside) given a shorter-term view. But take a step back and it looks to me like a long-term strategic mistake.

Like many Corbynites, I am playing the long game. As Britain becomes more and more Victorian, someone has to offer the working people of this country a genuine alternative. In the end, they may actually get off their arses and come out and vote for that alternative just like they did for Brexit. I think that's our best hope. If the price we pay is short-term electoral loss, so be it (though I'm not even convinced of that).

Corbyn has a record of being on the right side of history, on LGBT rights, on the Iraq War, on tuition fees, on talking to Sinn Fein, and so on. I think he's right now, too.

What do you think?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Blame The Blairites, Not Corbyn, For This Mess

Shame the working class will come out in droves to vote Brexit, but can't be bothered to vote Labour. Why is that?

We have one shot, admittedly long, at getting the working class back behind Labour, and it's Corbyn, not the Blairities. Let's get behind him.

Blairites are predictably blaming Corbyn, but it was they who created this mess by disregarding the working class.

I fear the alternative to working people getting behind an authentically left-wing party that they can see fights for them is that they'll feel increasingly marginalised and will eventually slide in desperation into fascism.

A shiny, Tory-lite Blairite like Dan Jarvis would be the worst possible choice at this time.

PS Corbyn delivered 63% of Labour voters for Remain. Sturgeon delivered 64% of SNP. So remind me again why Corbyn is to blame, but not Sturgeon?

Note also that even the super-Euro-friendly Lib Dems only managed 70% Remain.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

'Faith' and 'Hope' are vastly overrated

'Faith' and Hope' are feel-good words with a built-in warm, rosy glow. People who have faith and hope are held up for our admiration and emulation. We are encouraged to be like them - to believe and anticipate that, ultimately, all will be well.
 
Of course, faith can be good thing. It's good to have a little faith in those around us - to trust in others. Indeed, without at least some faith in your spouse, your bank manager, in other car drivers, and so on, modern life becomes impossible.
 
Hope, too, can be important  - without at least some hope of success we are unlikely to bother even trying.
 
Still, faith and hope are vastly overrated.... Continues here at CFI blogs.

Image courtesy wiki creative commons.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

'That may be true for you, but it's not true for me!'


According to the relativist, people who speak simply of what’s ‘true’ are naïve. ‘Whose truth?’ asks the relativist. ‘No claim is ever true, period. What’s true is always true for someone. It’s true relative to a particular person or culture. There’s no such thing as the absolute truth on any issue.
            This sort of relativism is certainly popular. For example, many claim that we ought never to condemn cultures with different moral points of view to our own. Differing moral perspectives are all equally valid. Similarly, some claim that while astrology and Feng Shui might be ‘false’ from a Western, scientific viewpoint, they are ‘true’ when viewed from alternative, New Age perspectives. What’s ‘true’ ultimately comes down to ones point of view.
 

Continues here at CFI blogs.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Now that's what I call a speech

Go to:

https://www.facebook.com/woweffects/videos/10208438174504629/?pnref=story

http://forward.com/news/breaking-news/342517/rabbi-slams-donald-trump-and-israel-in-muhammad-ali-funeral-speech/

Surprising, and great, speech. 'The way to honour Muhammad Ali is to be Muhammad Ali.' Too much self-serving cowardice from our politicians, journalists, religious leaders, and intellectuals. Too few people of genuine integrity.