Philosophers’ Carnival #127

Welcome to the June 27, 2011 edition of Philosophers’ Carnival.  First those blog posts which were actually submitted will be listed, followed by blog posts which were gleaned.  If you submitted a good post that was not included, please know there has been a glitch with blogcarnival.  Email me and it will be remedied.



Aaron Rathbun presents Obama’s Birth Certificate and Epistemology posted at theology+culture, saying, “This post is about postfoundationalist epistemology. “Birthers” doubting Obama’s birth certificate will never have any sufficient amount of evidence to prove them otherwise, because our presuppositional commitments shape how we filter the evidence to begin with.”

Matt Flannagan presents In Defense of Reasonable Disagreement by Andrew, posted at MandM.

logic and language

Tristan Haze presents Sketch of a Way of Thinking about Modality – Part 1 posted at Sprachlogik.


Michael S. Pearl presents Matters of Choice and Free Will posted at The Kindly Ones, saying, “This actually relates to logic and epistemology as well.”


gualtiero piccinini presents 
Was Psychosemantics a Failure? posted at Brains.

Christopher Norris presents Outside the Box:  on the ‘extended mind’ hypothesis posted at Ichthus77.

moral philosophy

Richard presents The Normativity Objection to Metaethical Naturalism posted at Philosophy, et cetera.

Greg Nirshberg presents What we miss in the free will debate posted at Cognitive Philosophy.

Matt Flannagan presents Lawful Authority and Just Wars posted at MandM.

Jeremy Pierce presents Abortion and Incurred Responsibility posted at Parableman.


Physicalism by Nick Smyth on Yeah, OK, But Still, on John Danaher’s articles of the same topic.

Is there a best possible multiverse?  by Alexander Pruss on Prosblogion.

Omnipotence and failure by Kenny Pearce.

How am I not myself? by Greg Nirshberg on Joshua Knobe and Mark Pierpoint’s articles.

Examples of errors in reasoning by James W. Gray on Ethical Realism, as well as an overview of the major theories in Ethics.

The anatomy of intentional action by Dan Jones on The Philosopher In the Mirror explaining “The Knobe Effect”.

Susan Wolfe and Meaningfulness by

You can’t get an ought from an is – but Cameron’s trying to do just that by Richard J Murphy on Tax Research UK.

Moral Absolutes and the Humpty Dumpty Fallacy by Matthew O’Brien and Robert C. Koons at Public Discourse, the second article in a series of three on The Uses of Philosophy.

Doing Away with God by Ian Kluge at Common Ground on Hawking and Mlodinow’s “The Grand Design”.

Mailbag Monday:  What is the Greater Good? on Philosophy Bro.

The Language of Responsibility by JP on Philosophy Talk.

Academic ethics under competition by Thomas Rodham on The Philosopher’s Beard.

philosophical divisions by Gary Sauer-Thompson.

Equal weight and asymmetric uncertainty by Brian Weatherson on Thoughts, Arguments and Rants.

Two Problems with Kripkenstein’s Argument for Meaning Skepticism by Jason Streitfeld at Specter of Reason.

The animal you are by Paul Snowdon on The Philosophers’ Magazine.

A short introduction to the philosophy of artificial intelligence by Anderson Brown.

Distinguished woman philosopher 2011 by profbigk on Feminist Philosophers.

What do diversity and inclusion mean at Cisco systems? by Tom Gilson at Thinking Christian.

Victor Stenger responds to “Who Made God?” by Edgar Andrews

Why do people completely misunderstand the word ‘faith’? by Eric Chabot at Ratio Christi.

The problem of miracles by Max Andrews on Sententia.

That concludes this edition. Thankyou to those who submitted blog posts.  Submit your blog article to the next edition of philosophers’ carnival using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.  “Like” us and stay updated on Facebook.

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23 Responses to Philosophers’ Carnival #127

  1. Skef says:

    If you wanted to get across the view that sexual orientation shouldn't have the same sort of social protection that race does (we all know corporations quickly separate themselves from open racists, regardless of what their diversity statements say, and no one much minds that), couldn't you have at least hunted around for a related article with actual philosophical content? Tacking Gilson's rant on to this carnival seems a bit desperate.

  2. Maryann says:

    Race is not a behavior one can choose to participate in or avoid. It is very much different from sexual orientation, which is closer to culture than it is to race. Culture can and should be critically examined. Where it is good, it should be celebrated. Where it is not, it should be improved. Having the position that a certain aspect of culture needs improvement (become one cares for that culture) is not being intollerant of culture-in-general, just as having the position that a certain aspect of a nation needs improvement (because one cares for that nation) is not being anti-patriotic. Frank Turek is not against the 'personhood' of those who identify as homosexuals, whereas an open racist insults the personhood of members of one or more particular race. I think Gilson did well to ask about the 'meaning' of words/values, and to ask about whether or not particular actions line up with those particular words/values. This is philosophy…linguistics, and Ethics. However, if you know of other blog posts which you feel should be included next to Gilson's, suggest them and I will revise the carnival.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I'm sorry Maryann, Gilson's post comes off as political posturing rather than genuine philosophical engagement. He doesn't seem to legitimately inquire into the meanings of those words at all, there's no nuanced discussion. I agree with Skef's assessment, it is shockingly out of place with the rest of the articles. (Though I question the inclusion of something like Jeremy Peirce's victim-blaming)

  4. Maryann says:

    Gilson subjected to philosophical examination Cisco's use of the words, and application of the words. He could not go more in depth in that examination than what Cisco has on offer. This is applied philosophy. If you don't like his take, write your own and I'll include it.

    And Jeremy wasn't victim-blaming. He is asking, if we hold condom-using fathers accountable for child support, why do we not hold pregnant women responsible for carrying a child to term? Whether or not the woman was responsible for the conception should matter as much as it does when it comes to holding condom-using fathers responsible for their offspring. It is just like taking responsibility for windows unintentionally broken during a baseball game. There is some good discussion following is post if you'd care to take it up over at his blog.

  5. Justin Sytsma says:

    “Race is not a behavior one can choose to participate in or avoid. It is very much different from sexual orientation, which is closer to culture than it is to race.”

    I'm not sure how you intended these sentences to connect up, but the most natural reading is that you hold that unlike race, sexual orientation is a behavior that one can choose to participate in or avoid. This is not the case, as a quick visit to a dictionary should make clear: Sexual orientation is not a behavior that one can choose to participate in or avoid.

    You should be more careful with your use of words.

  6. Anonymous says:


    When you write: “Gilson subjected to philosophical examination Cisco's use of the words, and application of the words” I'm not entirely sure he did any such thing. He gives a point by point account of his interactions with Cisco, and his research into the company, but there's no examination. It's just a bit of rhetorical huffing and puffing.

    As to Jeremy's post, it's hardly evident that the analogy was supposed to be with consensual sex where both partners intended that there be no conception. In fact, he brings up the baseball case immediately following discussion of rape cases, and the most natural reading is that it is supposed to be analogous to the rape case. Why? He writes things like: “So does someone have obligations that incur because of the small risk you took?” when the only risk he mentioned was the risk taken by a woman who walks alone; and the first “that” in the final paragraph seems to refer to the comparison with the rape case made in the previous paragraph.

    Also, none of the conditionals you mention are in Jeremy's post. Perhaps he meant something else, but his initial post does a terrible job of conveying that. And, of course, I am totally willing to retract my claims if he did.

    A seriously disappointing Philosopher's Carnival, in my opinion.

  7. Maryann says:

    Justin, although you said you didn't sound sure, you were spot on. I'm sure Gilson would love to dialogue w/ you on this in his thread.

    Anonymous–sounds like it's your turn to host :)

  8. Justin says:

    Not sure what Gilson has to do with this. And I certainly have no desire to have a dialogue with him.

    *You* suggested that sexual orientation is a behavior that one can choose to participate in or avoid. I pointed out that on a normal understanding of the relevant terms, you are confused. One's sexual orientation is often evidenced by one's behaviors, but it is not itself a behavior. And since sexual orientation is not a behavior, it is not a behavior that one can choose to participate in or avoid.

    As you pointed out to Skef, what is at issue here is the “meaning” of words. (Not sure what the point of the quotation marks is, but I’ll play along.)
    Not sure what Gilson has to do with this. And I certainly have no desire to have a dialogue with him.

    *You* suggested that sexual orientation is a behavior that one can choose to participate in or avoid. I pointed out that on a normal understanding of the relevant terms, you are confused. One's sexual orientation is often evidenced by one's behaviors, but it is not itself a behavior. And since sexual orientation is not a behavior, it is not a behavior that one can choose to participate in or avoid.

    As you pointed out to Skef, what is at issue here is the “meaning” of words. (Not sure what the point of the quotation marks is, but I’ll play along.)

  9. Maryann says:

    Justin, this is a complicated issue that could take a very, very long time to discuss. Such things come into play as the question “Do we have free will?” when it comes to the discussion of 'inclination' and whether inclination is developed by personal choices regarding internal and external behavior over time, or simply determined by the genes, or a combination of both. Another issue is whether or not an impluse being 'natural' means that it is good and we need not ever avoid it. For example, does having the gene that makes it more probable one will become addicted to or abuse alcohol mean that one has an 'inclination' toward alcoholism or that one 'is' an alcoholic (before one has ever consumed one drop of alcohol)? Should we label such people alcoholics and tell them just to embrace that identity proudly as a healthy part of who they are? If not, then the same arguments used about homosexuality do not work. You cannot get an ought (embrace your alcoholiality!) from an is (you've got the boozer gene!). I suppose an alcoholic could resort to the argument that they have the boozer gene, it's their choice how they die, drinking makes them happy and they live all alone and their drinking doesn't hurt anybody (or…perhaps they'd argue that it's just the thing you do when you go away to college and everybody just has a lot of fun as long as they don't over-do it…and perhaps years down the road they look back on their college days as being some of the best, funnest days of their lives, whereas now alcohol is more than just fun for them). Now, someone might argue it is a false analogy that poisons the well of discourse…that being a homosexual is more positive, like having a taste for chocolate (or the opposite sex). Maybe they are right, and they are free to make their case. But I don't think it is simply OBVIOUS that Frank Turek's being against same-sex marriage means he is just like a racist. What I do think Gilson made very obvious is that Cisco is inconcistent. They should fire all the Mother's Against Drunk Drivers, too, or hire Frank Turek back (as a contractor of course) with an apology.

  10. Justin says:

    Frankly, this is not a complicated issue; you are simply missing the rather simple point I am making. Regardless of how one comes to have the inclinations that one has, those inclinations are not behaviors, as typically understood.

    You responded to Skef by suggesting both that sexual orientation is a behavior that one can choose to participate in or avoid, and that Gilson’s post was worth including, in part, because it asks about the ‘meaning’ of words.

    This is funny. (And depressing.)

  11. bjbessey says:

    Maryann, I think you misunderstand the argument from naturalness, as it functions implicitly in anti-anti-homosexual discourse. I think it's a simple argument relying on Ought implies Can (OIC). If 'x is natural' means/entails 'bearers of x cannot phi', that fact, together with OIC, entails the falsity of any claim that 'bearers of x ought to phi'. It functions as a logical defeater for any such claim. So one cannot claim that homosexuals ought not to do anything that homosexuals qua homosexuals cannot do, such as enjoy sexual relationships with the opposite sex, etc. From there it is a fairly short step to (at least) tolerance of homosexual behaviours (which includes non-discrimination towards them of the kind that Taurek evidenced); if you can't argue that x should do anything other than phi, you can't criticise/discriminate against/etc. x for phi-ing.

    I'm not saying that you deny the validity of this argument, probably you just deny that homosexuality is 'natural' in this sense; but the description of the argument (implicit as it may be) in your reply above is inaccurate. The real discussion can only turn on a serious (and empirical) examination of the naturalness of homosexuality, or a denial of OIC; considerations of 'is' and 'ought' are not relevant, and neither is any other argument from naturalness to goodness (e.g. of the kind you suggest). Maybe I have this all wrong, but that's what I understand by normal anti-anti-homosexual argumentation as far as it has anything to do with 'naturalness', innateness, etc.

  12. Anonymous says:

    To other people who clicked over here from the Leiter blog:
    what's with the string of far-right wing tin-foil hats being in charge of philosopher's carnival? there've been so many, it's a little hard to believe this is mere coincidence. what's up?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Anon 8:32,

    I'd imagine what is going on has mainly to do with the intersection of Christian apologetics and philosophy of religion. Philosophy of religion and apologetics are heavily blurred in a way which I think is extremely unhealthy for philosophy of religion. Since you get to double-dip in this zone, many people who do apologetics also profess to do philosophy, and you end up with a much greater population of blogs which identify their subject matter as philosophy tend this way. Throw in pressure from the culture wars, and they are under much greater pressure to be active bloggers than the general philosophical community.

    It's also worth consider that the general philosophical community doesn't devote much time to blogging. I don't write a blog, nor do I think I could find the time. I'd imagine it's the same for many of my colleagues, with a few notable exceptions that come to mind.

    Those two points seem to be sufficient to explain the difference. The best we can do, it seems to me, is call out the nonsense as it is posted. Since, after all, blog carnivals are the product of the blogging community we (the readers and members of the community) should criticize hosts if they do a poor job.

  14. Anonymous says:

    As Anon, 2:48: I should add, you have to factor in that Christian apologists, on the whole, tend towards the far end of the political right. While I have some good friends who are heavily left leaning and Christian, they are not the majority.

  15. Maryann says:

    Justin, sexual fanatasies and sexual intercourse are behaviors. How we interact with people involves behaviors. Inclinations can be influenced by genes, but don't 'become' inclinations until thoughts and behaviors become habits.

    Ben (from ILP?!), ought does imply can, and those w/ the gene making them more susceptible to abuse alcohol are not 'doomed' to alcoholism. They should (and can) avoid it. Now, as I said, maybe they don't think they should–maybe they think it is as right as rain, and they are free to make that case. It is far from being obviously true, and so others 'should' be free to make the alternative case as well. Others, like Frank Turek, or Wintery Knight–

    I applaud Richard for keeping things open and diverse. There is a shortage of volunteers of the sort you would prefer. Contact them and motivate them to host, or find the time to host. I don't think posting things you disagree w/ makes a carnival a poor one–rather I think that is a sign of a good carnival, as long as they are not inflammatory posts meant mearly to stun and shock people. There were many excellent, thoughtful posts. You seem interested only in silencing thought. So again, I appreciate the way Richard has conducted things. The right person is in charge.

  16. Maryann says:

    Oh, no…I remember now where I first knew of you, Ben. You gave me FB quiz (essentialism/voluntarism) a poor rating and we were FB friends for a while. I hope you've been well :)

  17. bjbessey says:

    OK, so you don't merely deny that homosexuality is 'natural' in my sense, you deny that anything is? Do you deny determinism in some way? Or just that there are any specifiable traits of persons that can be said to preclude reasonable choice (such that OIC can come into play)? I can't see what grounds you could have for the latter – surely its a contingent, empirical matter whether there any such traits or not? If I have severe brain damage, doesn't that count as a 'natural' trait of the person in my sense? Doesn't 'x does not have wings' function as a defeater for 'x ought to fly'? I'm just trying to clarify that it really is a live option that homosexuality could be 'natural'. You may be right about the alcoholism case, but sexual orientation may not be analogous, it may well be unalterable in a much more radical way, such that it should count as 'natural'.

    Also, focusing on the genes case is tendentious – OIC works wherever a trait precludes reasonable choice – it doesn't have to be innate or congenital. If homosexuality is 'natural' in my sense, it needn't only be 'gay gene' type phenomena that would make it so.

    (I should perhaps clarify at this point that I think this approach to responding to anti-homosexual argumentation is flawed, not least because it's unnecessary. All this talk about innate vs. chosen traits/behaviours is ultimately irrelevant. There isn't anything wrong with homosexuality; there are not and never have been any good reasons to think that there is; and these arguments would only come into play if that weren't true.)

  18. Maryann says:

    I didn't deny it is natural, nor did I affirm it. What I said about the gene for alcoholism agrees that there is (when there is) a natural influence, but disagrees that this influence is deterministic (and so alcoholics still 'ought' to avoid alcohol when they plan to drive, and 'can'). Whether or not there is a natural (or other) influence in the case of homosexuality has not been shown, but if it had been shown, it would not be deterministic. There are undoubtedly other facts besides genes which contribute to alcoholism, but none of them are deterministic–the same would be true with homosexuality. And I provided a link by Wintery Knight, who made a case against same sex marriage. And this is not anti-homosexual argumentation, but anti-homosexuality argumentation.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Maryann, of course you're free to make the case, but please don't cite comically poor arguments like that of Wintery Knight. Seriously. He argues from the association of homosexuality with mental health disorders to the claim that we ought not to legalize gay marriage. If you don't grasp why that is a poor argument, then think it over. He doesn't think that there might be other social factors at play, and makes the assumption that homosexuality plays a causal role. His other arguments are fraught with similar errors, and don't get me started about the comical methodology employed by the Family Research Council.

  20. Maryann says:

    Anonymous–the article isn't about 'me' making the case, it is about Frank Turek getting fired for making the case in a book that never even got brought up at work. If you would like to discuss Wintery's article, I'm sure he would be glad to discuss it within that article. I hope you have better reasons to give him than straw men and what seems (as it stands) to border on the genetic fallacy.

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