Philosophers’ Carnival #138

Welcome again to Philosophers’ Carnival,which aims to showcase the best philosophical posts from a wide range of weblogs. We invite submissions from bloggers and readers, and collate the submitted posts into one big round-up (or ‘carnival’) every three weeks, offering a brief summary of each entry, and a link to the complete post.”  This is carnival #138.

We begin with…


Social Morality’s random walk through time posted at Morality’s Random Walk by Mark Sloan.  Game theory is intrinsic to reality, therefore morality based on game theory is intrinsic to reality, using a very broad definition of altruism that Ayn Rand could get along with.  Very cool picture of galaxies.  In walks Joshua Harwood:

Philosophical Amputations: 2: Loaded Language and Reification posted at A Yangist’s Musings by Joshua Harwood.  In the tradition of David Hume, who cautioned against the reification of deriving oughts from ises (a favorite topic of your hostess), Harwood takes apart what at first blush might appear to be a well-formed question but turns out to be full of assumptions which cannot simply be considered ‘given’ in authentic philosophical discourse.  They’re drawing elaborate maps of assumed territories that they don’t prove exist.  Reminds one of Sam Harris’ “The Moral Landscape” (the topic of Philosophers’ Carnival CXV).

The Origins of Property: A Parable with Morals
posted at and by Tomkow.  We’re talking about ownership.  In the tradition of John Rawls, who suggested the distributive-justice thought experiment that we imagine how a society would form if it were just starting out (I touch upon distributive justice in my work-in-progress), Tomkow employs parable (or fable) to tease out his (somewhat disjointed) conclusion (moral) that justice is all about permission, property is all about permission (though, somehow people are excluded from giving permission to be owned), but property does not have to be just (moral).  Yep, it’s all in there, and I found it an enjoyable read.  Relevant to this is:

The Separateness of Persons: Commensurability without Fungibility posted at Philosophy, et cetera by our founder Richard Yetter Chappell.  Richard corrects the error in assuming consequentialists feel that because the value of persons is commensurable (“ones that can be compared and traded off against each other”) they are fungible (the loss of one is cancelled out by the gain of another).  Rather, “a fitting consequentialist agent would desire each good (separately), …will have distinct intrinsic desires for each person’s welfare, … They will be pulled in both directions, torn by the distinct importance of the two lives (only one of which can be saved), and whichever one they do save, they will still see something regrettable about the loss of the other.”  Moving away from consequentialism:

You Kant Be Serious posted at and by Vroomfondil.  If you can wade through the politically-charged vitriol, this is a nice addition to the carnival.  V points out that ‘intended’ consequences matter over actual consequences, then s/he juggles the implications of favoring duty over inclination and makes them comically collide in an inclination to duty.  It is something I actually wonder about Kant’s valuing a virtuous disposition despite his emphasis on duty.  But ask yourself, V—who is physically stronger—the scrawny person who lifts 100 pounds because they tried really hard, or the ‘built’ person who lifts it effortlessly because they trained really hard?  Same consequences.  Same intentions.  The obvious answer is the muscularly virtuous one—the scrawny one would readily admit s/he is not as strong as the built one, which is evidenced in how much effort went in to the endeavor.  The same is true regarding moral strength.  That isn’t to say that morally weak people are not doing something morally excellent and worthy of praise when they go against all inclination and do the right thing.  It is only to say that having an inclination to do the right thing does not necessarily cancel out the rightness of the thing one is doing.  Guess I’ll count that as my submission to this carnival.  Somewhat related to this is:

The Concept-Deployment Asymmetry Objection posted at The Space of Reasons by Avery Archer.  Believing that ϕ is good requires that one deploy the concept of the good because it entails apprehending that ϕ is good. By contrast, desiring that ϕ does not require that one deploy the concept of the good because it entails apprehending ϕ as good, but does not entail apprehending that ϕ is good. This, I claim, represents a fundamental asymmetry between desiring to ϕ and believing that ϕ is good. Consequently, the Desire-as-Belief Thesis, which holds that the two are equivalent, must be false.”

Shifting into Metaphysics, Etc.

“Modal Ontological Arguments” and meta-modality posted at Critical Rationalism by Tony Lloyd.  Lloyd replied to my relevant blogpost (the content of which is owed to William Lane Craig), I reckon that standard Modal Logic can’t express ‘it is possible that a maximally great being exists’ and, so, I extend it” (in his submission).  This statement from his submission shows that his submission is not in reply to my blogpost, as it indicates he never read my blogpost, which answers him:  “That there is a fault can be shown by running the argument for other entities we are quite sure do not exist but will accept that they could possibly exist; such as The Golden Mountain, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Decent Pint of Mass Produced Lager.”  However, that is not the ‘meat’ of his argument, which reminds me of an argument by Richard M. Gale (I’ll let you digest that!).  He ends his submission with reference to an Evil God Modal Ontological Argument—my thoughts on the Evil God here.  Jason Streitfeld also replied to the aforementioned relevant blogpost, replacing premise one with “It is possible that a maximally great being does not exist,” and this is the second time I’ve edited this section of the carnival:  much discussion in the comments section!  :0)  Jason brings us our next submission:

Stanley on Ryle:  A Criticism posted at Specter of Reason by Jason Streitfeld.  This is the third in a series of posts in which Jason responds to Jason Stanley’s chapter on Ryle in his recent book, “Know How” (Oxford University Press, 2011).  The other posts in the series, since they all fall within the appropriate time frame: 1. Jason Stanley’s “Know How” 2. An Objection to Stanley’s Accusation That Ryle Appeals to Verificationism 4. Ryle and Behaviorism 5. Stanley’s Great Error

Factive Verbs and Protagonist Projection posted at Experimental Philosophy by Wesley Buckwalter.  This post delivers the results of a philosophy experiment conducted “to see if the linguistic evidence collected so far is better explained by (i) the folk tendency to adopt the perspective of the putative ‘knower’ when attributing or (ii) an underlying folk concept which really does allow for knowledge of false things. …it looks like people may be engaging in projective readings, rather than actually attributing knowledge to subjects with false beliefs.”  Interesting experiment.

Group Consciousness: Is the US a Candidate? posted at critique my thinking by Nick.  This one reminds me of this submission on the extended mind hypothesis (written by Chris Norris and hosted on my blog) from the last carnival I hosted.  In fact I believe Nick is just calling Eric to clarify whether his understanding of group consciousness includes extended mind (it sounds to me like Eric is extending ‘extended mind’ from inanimate objects to other people, then labeling it group consciousness) and if so “point to salient evidence of inanimate objects hosting consciousness. // Because if the network of stuff between conscious persons does host consciousness, then the panpsychists might be on to something. Also, it would imply the possibility of mereological composition of consciousness-hosting parts—that is, the ability to consider any set of objects and conscious persons a conscious entity. For example, [Your next-door neighbors] + [television] + [The People’s republic of China] = [a single conscious entity]. This too seems bizarre. // And if the intermediaries fail to be feasible hosts of consciousness, then all we have are sophisticated and patterned interactions between conscious members of a group. That might instantiate something like ‘culture’, but it is a far cry from group consciousness.”  Read Eric’s recent blog posts on that here and here. 

*News Flash*
By the way, did you know there is an on-line consciousness conference going on until March 2nd?  Check it out!  It is the fourth year for this conference hosted at Consciousness Online.

That’s it for this carnival.  I was hoping to receive a submission from
Professor Alvin Plantinga answering John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts, who was replying to a submission to the last carnival.  Professor Plantinga is a busy man though, and I will host his reply on my blog when he gets the time for it (update:  here) and will submit it to the next carnival.  Thanks to those who contributed and to those who are just stopping by to check things out! :) 

Be sure and submit to the next carnival using the form here (not the blogcarnival widget or email), and do consider hosting (guidelines found here).  The next carnival will be at critique my thinking.  See you then!

This entry was posted in Carnival, Golden Rule, Is-Ought Fallacy, Ontological Argument, Stephen Law's evil god argument, William Lane Craig. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Philosophers’ Carnival #138

  1. I appreciate the inclusion in this Philosopher's Carnival. Thank you. However, I do not appreciate the assumption that I had not read your earlier post on the ontological argument. In that post, William Lane Craig is quoted as making the following claim: “In order for the ontological argument to fail, the concept of a maximally great being must be incoherent, like the concept of a married bachelor. But the concept of a maximally great being doesn't seem even remotely incoherent. This provides some prima facie warrant for thinking that it is possible that a maximally great being exists.” My comment indicates, albeit implicitly, that Craig is simply wrong.

    As I noted shortly after posting, I elaborated on the comment here. I have since elaborated even further with a discussion of Van Inwagen (here) and a discussion of Plantinga and Oppy (here). The upshot is that Plantinga's argument does not demonstrate anything, because it begs the question against the no-existence defeater. Again, I admit this was all merely implicit in my original comment on your blog. I don't blame you for not seeing the point. But I don't think the “you haven't read the post” response is justified.

  2. Maryann says:

    I'm only referring to the first 'here'. If you read WLC's comments on what it means to be maximally great, you would see how you cannot accept your 3b.

  3. Maryann says:

    …unless you have a good argument for “maximally great non-existence”? :0)

  4. I think you must be misunderstanding my 3b, since nothing in your post provides grounds for rejecting it. Indeed, rejecting it would be exceedingly odd. If a maximally great being does not exist in some possible world, then a maximally great being does not exist in every possible world–i.e., then it is not true that a maximally great being exists in every possible world. Or do you suppose it is possible for a being to both exist in every world and not exist in some worlds?

    I'm happy to explain such points, even though I think they are obvious. But I'd much rather do so with a bit more charity coming from your end.

  5. In response to your post at Feb 20, 2012 03:09:

    If you take issue with the possibility of a maximally great being which does not exist, then you are taking issue with my premise 1b more than with my 3b. You are assuming that a maximally great being must exist. How is that not begging the question?

  6. Maryann says:

    Let's approach it differently. Use “x” in place of maximally great being, where x is any object. Can you say that “If x does not exist in some possible world, then it does not exist in every possible world”? No. You cannot even say “If x exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world” (where x is any object). If you reflect on where WLC talks about what it means to be a maximally great being, it will be pretty obvious to you that you can't say the same things (existing in one possible world means existing in every possible world) about any old object….LEAST of all of an object that doesn't exist. There is no maximally great nonexistence. The “Evil God” argument (Stephen Law) suffers the same problem, because evil is a privation of good…rather than a fullness.

  7. Maryann says:

    Agnostics would accept the premise that the MGB is at least possible…theists are not the only ones who would accept the premise. The MOA shows (not assumes) the MGB must exist.

  8. The accusation, then, is not that I have not read the post, but that I don't understand modal logic. But I still don't think you're interpreting my 3b correctly. You ask, 'Can you say that “If x does not exist in some possible world, then it does not exist in every possible world”?'

    The correct answer is, 'yes.' If x exists in every possible world, then it is false that x does not exist in some possible world. Therefore, if x does not exist in some possible world, then it is false that x exists in every possible world.

    You seem to be responding as if I had made the following claim: “If x does not exist in some possible world, then it does not exist in any possible world.” That is surely false, but that's not the premise I'm using.

  9. Responding to two prior comments here: You say, “There is no maximally great nonexistence.” I never claimed there was such a thing as maximally great non-existence. All my argument requires is that the possibility of no maximal greatness is just as plausible as the possibility of maximal greatness. What I argue is that these two possibilities are logically incompatible. (Plantinga made the same observation in 1974.) To accept the premise that maximal greatness is possible, you have to reject the possibility that there is no maximal greatness. Agnostics are not willing to do that. That's why only theists would accept MOA, and that's why MOA begs the question.

  10. Maryann says:

    Your 3b: “If a maximally great being does not exist in some possible world, then it does not exist in every possible world.”

    The part of WLC's answer you missed: Again, (3) is virtually definitionally true. A maximally great being is one that has, among other properties, necessary existence. So if it exists in one world, it exists in all of them! In that sense, such a being is different than contingent beings, which exist in only some possible worlds. A unicorn, for example, exists in some possible world, but not in all of them, for its existence is possible but not necessary. So your prof is right that there is something special, not about a maximally excellent being (which, you'll recall, is defined to be a being which is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good), but about a maximally great being, which is defined as a being which has maximal excellence in every possible world. If such a being exists in any world, that is to say, if it is possible that such a being exists, then it exists in every possible world, including the actual world.”

  11. Maryann says:

    Your 3b assumes there is maximally great nonexistence (see my reply below). Agnostics would be begging the question in that case, not the MOA. And why pin them to rejecting the conclusion of MOA, when actually they accept premise 1? If they accept premise 1, they should accept the conclusion.

  12. Rather than repeat myself, I'll just kindly ask that you reread my comments here and, if you have time, read the posts I've linked to on my blog. I'll also point out that I did not “miss” that portion of Craig's email. That portion is irrelevant, since I'm not challenging (3). And I'm not assuming there is “maximally great non-existence.” In any case, I don't think I can do a better job of presenting my argument to you, so maybe we should just leave it at that.

    Also, please reconsider the importance of charity in philosophical discussions. There's no reason to put yourself above apologizing for insultingly uncharitable remarks when they have been pointed out to you.

  13. Maryann says:

    Well I do apologize for saying you had not read it. Until now I genuinely thought you hadn't. I'm sorry that you feel insulted, but that was not my intention. I understand you are not challenging 3, but that portion 'is' relevant because your 3 is fallacious due to your not understanding that portion. I am confident the lightbulb will eventually blink on for you if you just meditate on your 3b and the portion of WLC's answer that I quoted above. Again, I am genuinely sorry for how I made you feel. I will edit the carnival.

  14. Nick Byrd says:

    Thanks for hosting. You're a competent host, once again.

  15. Thank you. I appreciate that. Here's one more stab at mutual understanding. Take my 3b and substitute anything you like for MGB. It is still true. There is a big difference between 3 and 3b. That's why Craig's comment about 3 is irrelevant.

  16. Jason, if your argument can be applied to anything–nothing at all exists. Let's keep trying at this :) I think we'll get it :)

  17. Thanks :) Looking forward to your carnival :)

  18. Mark Sloan says:

    Maryann, thanks for hosting “Carnival” and including Social Morality’s random walk through time. I see I need to post my contact information more prominently. I was not trying for anonymity.

    The parallel with Ayn Rand is that both of us see acting morally as, almost always, an instrumental choice. We differ in that Randianism, as I understand it, defines whatever your instrumental choice is as moral. I strongly disagree with this definition of what is moral.

    I define what is moral regarding interactions with other people as “Altruistic acts that increase the benefits of cooperation in groups” where altruism is defined as “Acting at a cost to one’s self and benefiting others without consideration of possible future net benefits for one’s self”. This is what morality is regardless of whether you believe it is your instrumental choice or not.

    My limited understanding (intentionally limited, I find Randianism creepy and more suited for rational psychopaths than people) is that most Randians would not agree with my position.

  19. Hi Mark. For now I've just edited the carnival to replace the ? with your name :) We'll talk soon.

  20. Not at all. If a dog doesn't exist in some possible world, then a dog doesn't exist in every possible world. Dogs do not necessarily exist, so it is possible for a dog not to exist. Thus, a dog does not exist in every possible world. Yet, dogs may still exist in some possible worlds, including the actual world.

    As I said, I think this is obvious. I don't know how to make it plainer.

  21. Look again at my comment from Feb. 20, at 03:36. Maybe it will finally click for you.

  22. Maybe this will help: The premise is, “if a maximally great being does not exist in some possible world, then it does not exist in every possible world.” Perhaps you are taking that to be an instance of the following:

    A. If 'x does not exist' is true in some possible world, then 'x does not exist' is true in every possible world.

    All 3b actually requires is B:

    B. If 'x does not exist in some possible world' is true, then 'x exists in every possible world' is false.

    My 3b is an instance of B, not A.

    As it happens, A is true if we restrict x to beings which are defined as necessary beings–beings which, by definition, exist in every possible world. MGB is defined as a necessary being, and so 3b is true even if we interpret it as an instance of A: If “a maximally great being does not exist' is true in some possible world, then 'a maximally great being does not exist' is true in every possible world.

  23. Jason, so when you said earlier, “Take my 3b and substitute anything you like for MGB. It is still true. There is a big difference between 3 and 3b,” you were still interpreting your 'every' the way it is interpreted in 3a. Now that you are changing it (making your 3b somewhat redundant, wouldn't you say?), I agree that, since a maximally great being exists, it must exist in every possible world, so that if it does not exist in some possible world, it does not exist in every (“any”) possible world…and 2b doesn't capture the full implications of that. I need to chew on this. The first thought that comes to my mind is…unless it is 'impossible' for a maximally great being to exist, then the fact that it is 'possible' over-rules your argument, since both arguments cannot be true. I am not sure if that even holds any weight or how it would be written in a possible-worlds argument.

  24. Pardon…there is an “if” missing ….”If” a maximally great being exists, it must exist in every possible world…

  25. No, I haven't changed anything. I'm just explaining what my original argument means. In any case, I think you're missing the point of my argument. You say it is possible that MGB exists, and I say that you can only motivate your claim by denying the possibility that MGB does not exist. Perhaps you can motivate your claim that it is possible that MGB exists, but you can only do that by motivating your claim that it is not possible that MGB does not exist. In other words, to motivate the premise of MOA, you have to argue for its conclusion. Thus, MOA begs the question. This has nothing to do with whether or not MGB is possible or impossible or whatnot.

  26. I think I'm going to bow out of this discussion now. I've said about all that I can say. The rest can be found on my blog.

  27. Maryann says:

    Jason sorry for the whole misunderstanding. It's kind of funny looking back on the mistake I was making in assuming you were extending necessary NONexistence to every possible world in 3b the way necessary existence is extended to every possible world in 3a. You had corrected that on Feb 20 at 3:36 but it escaped me! I am sure you are frustrated by now but I applaud your sticking with me as long as you did. I thought for sure you were having the sort of misunderstanding that I was actually having–everything you have written makes totally different sense than the first time around, lol. Strange feeling. Anyway, still need to chew on your 'begging the question' charge. I understand u may not be here to read this but perhaps you will.

  28. Oh good! I'm relieved. Thanks for making the effort.

  29. Maryann says:

    Mkay. I've thought about it. Let me know what you think. This is a challenge to your first premise. It may even already be a rule in some other form in possible world semantics, stating that you can't say “It is possible that x does not exist” because it nonexistence can only be said of things which are logically incoherent, and it would not be said “It is possible that x does not exist” it would be said “It is impossible that x exists” because it is logically incoherent. Because possible world semantics is only dealing in the possible…the logically incoherent (impossible) can never even come in to play. So the only way you would ever say something is not possible, is if it is impossible (logically incoherent). All else is possible–if it is logically coherent. Correct me if I am wrong here. If not…here goes my thinking…:

    Either something is possible, or something is impossible.

    If something is possible, then it is impossible that it is impossible.

    If something is impossible, then it is impossible that it is possible.

    The only thing that makes a thing impossible (in possible worlds semantics) is if it is logically incoherent. (Correct me if I am wrong.)

    If a thing is not logically incoherent, then the thing is possible. (Correct me if I am wrong.)

    The mgb is logically coherent, therefore it is possible, therefore it is impossible that it is impossible (in possible worlds semantics).

    I have no idea if this holds any weight…I have very little familiarity with possible worlds semantics. Just something I am chewing on.

  30. I'd be very suspicious of any logical system that did not allow us to express the possible non-existence of entities. It is possible that hairless polar bears do not exist. It is possible that Sherlock Holmes does not exist.

    In any case, recall that Plantinga formulated the possible no existence premise as a positive statement: “No-maximality is possibly exemplified.” Thus, even if you were, for some reason, more suspicious of claims about possible non-existence, that objection wouldn't work on Plantinga's formulation.

  31. Yes. What if I modified what I was chewing on to say that when the possibility of a being is not logically incoherent (impossible), then it is fallacious to say that “it is possible it doesn't exist” if that would lead to its being impossible (logically incoherent). I don't think the same thing is going on in Plantinga's version. It's not like he is putting coherency on something that wasn't previously coherent. But with your version you are putting incoherency/impossibility on something previously coherent/possible. Then again, perhaps the parallel with Plantinga is putting actuality on something merely possible. Iii dunno…

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