A commentary by Bharath Vallabha on the function of the Philosophical Gourmet Report has been posted at Richard Heck’s blog. In the piece Vallabha invites reflection on a “standard narrative” about the PGR, namely that it provides a service to students. (Commenting is available at Richard’s blog, for those who wish to comment.)
On A “Standard Narrative” About The PGR October 17, 2014
Would you have expected this? November 22, 2012
I was surprised by an incident – involving me – on my campus. I would not have expected this, and in fact I’ve embarrassingly agreed in print with Hume about our having a natural tendency to care about others, at least those in our community who are like us.
I had been at a large and fairly formal lunch. No alcohol, but I was in my best daytime attire. Shortly after I left the hotel on campus where the event was, I stumbled and fell. Fortunately, my left hand and arm got most of the damage; my head didn’t touch the ground and nothing was broken. But I was very shaken up. So I decided not to move for a while.
So picture this: definitely older woman, black silk trousers, quite nice red top, a rope of pearls, sitting on a campus sidewalk, her back against a wall, and her legs straight out onto the pavement. A few possessions scattered by her side. A university name tag still on her top.
I think something like 20-25 students passed me. No one stopped and asked if I needed help.
Of course, I could have asked for help, but decided not to when no one seemed the least bit concerned. But I hardly looked to be just enjoying myself; I hope I would have stopped if it were someone else.
Nuns on the bus June 19, 2012
They are going out on a nine-state trip to argue that the Ryan budget is bad for the poor and bad for the country.
Bill Moyers’ team is going along and there will be follow-ups on his pages too.
Reassessing princess diana? June 17, 2012
I’ve often thought Diana exhibited some genuine courage and caring during her life.** I was less than keen on the thorough drubbing she received at the hands of many in British learned society. So I was interested in a revision by a former editor of the Tatler.
Tina Brown, now editor-in-chief of Newsweek, has some interesting new things to say about Diana here.
Her overall assessment is that Diana managed to take an incredibly painful experience caused by others and to do some good with it. She has a number of reasons for this assessment, including the contrast betweeen how great effort has been made to bring Kate Middleton into the monarchy, while Diana was largely hung out to dry.
In addition, while Diana was labeled paranoid for extended sense she was spied on, we now can see she probably was a victim of the Murdoch Empire phone hacking.
What do you think?
**Added: She was one of the first – perhaps the very first – public figure to challenge by her behavior the idea that AIDS could be transferred through touch. Her campaign against land mines was very important and hardly typical royal stuff.
Intuitions and Ideology March 13, 2011
Is it a common intuition among philosophers that human beings are naturally self-centered.? We don’t, such a story could go, actually give a damn about others’ survival, but for various reasons – largely for our own good – we need to act otherwise. My sense is that this is a wide-spread belief in the profession, and indeed when it surfaces, I end up feeling I should find another field, despite the empirical and transcental arguments I have heard for “the impossibility of altruism.” Are such intuitions, if they do exist, the product of rational reflection or do they more often mirror deeply popular ways of regarding ourselves? That is, are they more a matter of ideologies?
In any case, it now seems that such intuitions may well be quite wrong. There has already been interesting evidence that reciprocity is a deep seated need for the human psyche. And theorists such as Sarah Hrdy have argued that female groups formed to raise infants are not inherently selfish agents. But the NY Times reports empirical backing for an even more stunning idea. What distinguished human beings from chimps in the earliest stages of our split from them is the difference in cooperating with and learning from others:
Anthropologists studying living hunter-gatherers have radically revised their view of how early human societies were structured, a shift that yields new insights into how humans evolved away from apes.
Early human groups, according to the new view, would have been more cooperative and willing to learn from one another than the chimpanzees from which human ancestors split about five million years ago. The advantages of cooperation and social learning then propelled the incipient human groups along a different evolutionary path. … Group selection could possibly act at the level of the tribe, Dr. Hill said, meaning that tribes with highly cooperative members would prevail over those that were less cohesive, thus promoting genes for cooperation.
And what is part of all this? Pair bonding:
The finding corroborates an influential new view of early human origins advanced by Bernard Chapais, a primatologist at the University of Montreal, in his book “Primeval Kinship” (2008). Dr. Chapais showed how a simple development, the emergence of a pair bond between male and female, would have allowed people to recognize their relatives, something chimps can do only to a limited extent. When family members dispersed to other bands, they would be recognized and neighboring bands would cooperate instead of fighting to the death as chimp groups do.
I’m left wondering about philosophical intuitions. Is it right that many people have found “foundational selfishness” an intuitively attractive view? If so, does that tell us that books such as The Selfish Gene are just internalized? Are intuitions, despite many people’s claims for their source in reason, too often a reflection of wide-spread academic beliefs?
Women in Opera – misogynism? February 26, 2011
A very interesting program caught my attention on BBC 3 today. It asks why opera seems to depend almost entirely on the suffering of dying women.
I was interested because when going to the Traviata earlier this year I was SO irritated by the (in my mind) misogynism (as well as the ridiculous plotline), that it stopped me from just being able to enjoy the music…
For those interested, the program is on again on the 26th of June.
(And I apologise to those outside the UK who can’t access this program!)