Obscure and Confused Ideas
idiosyncratic perspectives on philosophy of science, its history, and related issues in logic
Appiah, X-Phi, and a Kripkean intuition
I have found Kwame Anthony Appiah's work on experimental philosophy insightful and sensible, and I have learned a great deal from it. I find most of his claims very plausible, but one empirical assertion stood out as questionable: there is a diversity of intuitions among Anglophone philosophers about the Schmidt-Gödel thought-experiment.
"When Eduoard Machery and colleagues posed a famous thought experiment of Kripke’s to students, they found that those from Hong Kong had quite a different pattern of response than those from New Jersey. But my guess is that in most cases, the results would shore up the intuition it was meant to pump; and that, where it did not, philosophers, too, have already been left divided." (2007 APA Presidential Address, section IX)
"Here’s the thing about the theory of reference: Versions of both views — Kripke’s and the one he was challenging — have plentiful adherents among philosophers. Both intuitions have their advocates."("The New New Philosophy," NYT Magazine, Dec 9 2007)
(Emphases mine, in both quotations.) It's certainly true that there is nothing close to unanimity among Anglophone philosophers on the correct theory of reference. However, I do have the impression that, sociologically speaking, philosophers do overwhelmingly have the intuition that "Gödel" does not refer to Schmidt in Kripke's thought experiment. People with descriptivist proclivities accept the intuition, but then try to accommodate (or explain away?) that intuition within a broadly descriptivist framework. Or am I wrong about this sociological pattern?
survey says: there are analytic truths
I imagine many readers are already aware, but the results of the Philosophical Survey are now available here.
The biggest surprise for me was on the question 'Analytic-synthetic distinction: yes or no?': 65% said yes or lean toward yes, and only 27% said no or lean towards no.
This is not an unqualified sociological victory for Carnapophiles, because Chalmers notes in the discussion that many of the 'yes' respondents included a comment along the lines of '... but the distinction does no substantive philosophical work' -- which is precisely Quine's later position (seen perhaps most clearly in his Schilpp Library of Living Philosophers volume).
This is not a real post; I just wanted to mention a couple of things I'm liking at the moment.
The new, completely open access journal Philosophy and Theory in Biology is available -- and accepting submissions. I've perused the brief first issue, and it's got high-quality contributors and content.
I'm currently reading Human Reasoning and Cognitive Science by Keith Stenning and Michiel van Lambalgen, a psychologist who works on reasoning and a logician. The book is pretty idiosyncratic in places, but these idiosyncrasies are usually thought-provoking, and I am learning quite a bit. So I can recommend it to folks who enjoy thinking and learning.