Last week, Tim Schroeder spoke to the philosophy of action workshop here at UCR on habit and addiction. He gave a unitary account of "strength of habit", according to which a habit is strong to the extent it's difficult to extinguish.
It struck me, however, that there might be two different ways for a habit to be strong. Some habits are difficult to extinguish simply because we thoughtlessly repeat them, but if we pause to reflect they have no pull on us. For example: My new car has a foot parking brake and my old car (which I still sometimes drive) has a hand brake. Now that I've grown used to my new car, I find myself pushing on the floor with my foot even in my old car when I park. Or: I used to absently chew my fingernails, though I recognized this made my fingernails look unappealing. Though when I stopped to think about it, I found no particular impulse or craving to chew the nails, it was a hard habit to break simply because I would find myself chewing them without thinking about it.
Other bad habits -- perhaps these more closely resemble addictions -- are hard to break in a different way: Even when I reflect I find myself drawn to continue them. For example: Eating junk food at night when I'm stressed. It's not unusual for me to stop and reflect as I'm reaching toward the cookies -- but then I rationalize: It's just a little bit, or I'm already eating it, or just this one cookie, or it's a special occasion, or even "how interesting that I'm doing this -- an occasion to reflect on weakness of will!"... In contrast, there's no impulse to rationalize pressing my foot on the floor or chewing my nails!
If a habit is a repetitive pattern of behavior that proceeds somewhat independently of rational guidance (this is close to but not exactly Schroeder's definition), then there are at least two neurologically distinct ways to form a habit. One is mere repetition. Doing something over and over again tends to strengthen the neural pathways that generate that behavior and weaken the pathways to other behavior, independent of any particular reward. The other is reward: If a behavior is rewarded, especially if it is strongly rewarded, that tends to increase the likelihood of its occuring again. Maybe, then, these two different mechanisms of habit formation underwrite two different types of habit with different types of habit strength and different conditions of extinction -- and in particular, the first type of habit may be more thoughtless and more easily defeated by thought than the second.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Last week, Tim Schroeder spoke to the philosophy of action workshop here at UCR on habit and addiction. He gave a unitary account of "strength of habit", according to which a habit is strong to the extent it's difficult to extinguish.
Posted by Eric Schwitzgebel at 8:09 AM
Monday, November 27, 2006
Regular visitors to this blog will know that I'm working on assessing the rates at which ethics books are stolen from academic libraries, vs. non-ethics philosophy books. I've used the bibliographies in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy to generate my list of prominent books in ethics and, as a comparison group, philosophy of mind and language.
I divided SEP entries into three categories: (1.) ethics (including legal philosophy, political philosophy, and historical entries specifically focusing on ethics, but excluding moral psychology and philosophy of action), (2.) philosophy of mind and/or language (including historical entries on these topics but excluding logic, moral psychology, and philosophy of action), and (3.) other. I then generated two lists: A list of books appearing in at least 5 of the bibliographies of entries in group 1, and a similar list of books appearing in at least 5 bibliographies in group 2. I didn't distinguish between editions (so, for example, Rawls's original A Theory of Justice and his second edition count as a single book for this ranking).
Since rankings of prominence tend to attract attention, I thought readers might be interested in seeing the lists. The number preceding the bibliographic line is the number of bibliographies in which the book appears. Variations in format, and possible minor bibliographic errors, are due to the fact that the bibliographic information is pasted in more or less arbitrarily from one of the SEP entries.
Some of the caveats about this method are described in my rankings of highly-cited ethicists and philosophers of mind/language. I excluded works prior to 1960.
41. Rawls, John, 1971, A Theory of Justice, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
22. Nozick, Robert, 1974, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, New York: Basic Books
16. Rawls, John. 1993. Political Liberalism. Columbia University Press.
14. Sandel, Michael, 1982, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
13. Gauthier, David (1986). Morals By Agreement. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
13. Raz, Joseph (1986). The Morality of Freedom. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
13. Scanlon, T. M., 1998, What We Owe to Each Other (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).
12. Hare, R. M., 1981, Moral Thinking, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
11. Brink, David O. 1989. Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics. Cambridge University Press.
11. Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge.
11. Dworkin, Ronald., 1986. Law's Empire, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
11. Gilligan, Carol. 1982. In a Different Voice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
11. Griffin, J., 1986, Well-Being: Its Meaning, Measurement, and Moral Importance, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
11. Young, Iris Marion. 1990. Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
10. Dworkin, Ronald, 2000, Sovereign Virtue, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, chapters 1-3.
10. Gibbard, Allan, 1990, Wise Choices, Apt Feelings: A Theory of Normative Judgment (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).
9. Brandt, Richard. 1979. A Theory of the Good and the Right. Oxford University Press.
9. Dworkin, Ronald (1978) Taking Rights Seriously. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
9. Hart, H.L.A., The Concept of Law (Oxford, 1961).
9. Steiner, Hillel, 1994, An Essay on Rights, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
9. Temkin, Larry S., 1993, Inequality, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
9. Walzer, Michael. 1983. Spheres of Justice. New York: Basic Books.
8. Okin, Susan Moller. 1989. Justice, Gender and the Family. New York: Basic Books.
8. Parfit, D., 1984, Reasons and Persons, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
8. Rawls, John. 1999. The Law of Peoples.Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
7. Habermas, J., 1996 Between Facts and Norms, Cambridge UK.
7. Jaggar, Alison M., 1983, Feminist Politics and Human Nature, Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Allanheld.
7. Kymlicka, Will, 1995, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
7. MacIntyre, Alasdair. (1984) After Virtue. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
7. Pogge, Thomas (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights. (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press).
7. Smith, Michael, 1994, The Moral Problem, Oxford: Blackwell.
7. Tamir, Y., 1993, Liberal Nationalism, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
6. Ackerman, Bruce A., 1980, Social Justice in the Liberal State, New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press
6. Barry, Brian. 1989. Theories of Justice. University of California Press.
6. Barry, Brian. 1995. Justice as Impartiality. Oxford University Press.
6. Coleman, Jules (2001). The Practice of Principle.Oxford: Clarendon Press.
6. Cooper, John M., 1999, Reason and Emotion (Princeton: Princeton University Press).
6. Hayek, Friedrich A., 1960, The Constitution of Liberty, London: Routledge.
6. Korsgaard, C., 1996, The Sources of Normativity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
6. Kymlicka, Will, 1990, Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
6. Mackie, J.L., 1977, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, New York: Penguin.
6. MacKinnon, Catharine. (1987) Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
6. Nussbaum, Martha C. The Fragility of Goodness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Chapters 8-9.
6. Nussbaum, Martha, 2000, Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
6. Rawls, John. 2001. Justice as Fairness: A Restatement. Cambridge, MA: Harvard U.P.
6. Ruddick, Sara. 1989. Maternal Thinking: Towards a Politics of Peace. Boston: Beacon Press.
6. Taylor, Charles. 1989. Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
6. Williams, Bernard. 1985. Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy. Harvard University Press.
6. Williams, Bernard (1972), Morality: An Introduction to Ethics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
5. Annas, Julia, 1993, The Morality of Happiness (New York: Oxford University Press).
5. Barry, Brian. 2001. Culture and Equality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
5. Blackburn, Simon, 1984, Spreading the Word, Oxford: Oxford University Press
5. Blackburn, Simon, 1998, Ruling Passions: A Theory of Practical Reasoning, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
5. Broome, John, 1991, Weighing Goods, Oxford: Blackwell
5. Butler, Judith.(1993). Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex.” New York: Routledge.
5. Chang, R. (ed.), 1997, Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
5. Christiano, Thomas, 1996, The Rule of the Many, Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.
5. Cohen, G. A., 1995, Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
5. Dancy, Jonathan, 1993, Moral Reasons, Oxford: Blackwell
5. Darwall, Stephen L. 1983. Impartial Reason. Cornell University Press.
5. Feldman, F., 1997, Utilitarianism, Hedonism, and Desert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
5. Finnis, John. 1980. Natural Law and Natural Rights. Oxford University Press.
5. Fischer, John Martin and Mark Ravizza (1998) Responsibility and Control: A Theory of Moral Responsibility. New York: Cambridge University Press.
5. Foot, Philippa, 1978, Virtues and Vices and Other Essays in Moral Philosophy, Oxford: Blackwell.
5. Herman, Barbara. (1993) The Practice of Moral Judgement. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
5. Hurka, Thomas. (1993) Perfectionism. New York: Oxford University Press.
5. Irigaray, Luce. 1985. Speculum of the Other Woman. Trans. Gillian C. Gill. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
5. Kymlicka, W. ed., 1995. The Rights of Minority Cultures. Oxford: Oxford University Press
5. Lloyd, Genevieve, 1993, The Man of Reason: “Male” and “Female” in Western Philosophy, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
5. MacIntyre, Alasdair. 1988. Whose Justice? Which Rationality? Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press.
5. Miller, D., 1995, On Nationality, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
5. Nagel, Thomas., 1986, The View From Nowhere, New York: Oxford University Press.
5. Nagel, Thomas. 1991. Equality and Partiality. New York: Oxford University Press.
5. Sen, Amartya, 1992, Inequality Reexamined, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
5. Wolf, Susan, 1990, Freedom Within Reason. (New York: Oxford University Press).
5. Young, Iris Marion. 2000. Inclusion and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mind and Language:
21. Chalmers, D., 1996, The Conscious Mind. In Search of a Fundamental Theory, New York: Oxford University Press.
21. Kripke, Saul. 1980. Naming and Necessity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
19. Dennett, D. C. 1991. Consciousness Explained. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
18. Fodor, J.A. (1987) Psychosemantics, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
17. Dretske, F. 1995. Naturalizing the Mind. MIT Press.
15. Tye, M. (1995). Ten Problems of Consciousness. (Cambridge, MA: Bradford Books/MIT Press.)
14. Searle, John. 1992. The Rediscovery of the Mind. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
13. Dretske, Fred (1981) Knowledge and the Flow of Information, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
13. Lycan, W. 1996. Consciousness and Experience. MIT Press.
12. Armstrong, D.M. (1968). A Materialist Theory of the Mind. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.)
12. Millikan, R. G. (1984). Language, Thought, and Other Biological Categories Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
11. Fodor, J. (1975) The Language of Thought, New York: Crowell.
11. Quine, W., 1960. Word and Object. Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press.
11. Stich, S. (1983). From Folk Psychology to Cognitive Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
10. Carruthers, P. (2000) Phenomenal Consciousness: A naturalistic theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
10. Dretske, Fred (1988). Explaining Behavior, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
10. Evans, Gareth, 1982, The Varieties of Reference Oxford: Clarendon Press.
10. Peacocke, C. 1992. A Study of Concepts. MIT Press.
10. Tye, M. 2000. Consciousness, Color, and Content. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
9. Siewert, C. 1998. The Significance of Consciousness. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
8. Levine, J., 2001, Purple Haze: The Puzzle of Consciousness, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
8. McGinn, Colin, 1989, Mental Content Oxford: Blackwell.
8. Papineau, David (1993) Philosophical Naturalism. Oxford: Blackwell.
8. Peacocke, C. 1983. Sense and Content, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
8. Salmon, N. (1986) Frege's Puzzle. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
8. Strawson, G. 1994. Mental Reality. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, Bradford Books.
7. Dennett, D. C. (1987) The Intentional Stance. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
7. Dennett, D.C. (1978) Brainstorms, Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology, Montgomery, Vt.: Bradford Books.
7. Jackson, F., 1977, Perception: A Representative Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
7. McDowell, J. (1994). Mind and World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
7. McGinn, C. 1991. The Problem of Consciousness. Blackwell.
7. Searle, J.R. (1983), Intentionality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
7. Stalnaker, R. 1984: Inquiry. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
6. Carruthers, P. 1996. Language, Thought and Consciousness. Cambridge University Press.
6. Chomsky, N., 2000, New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind, Cambridge.
6. Dennett, D.C. (1969). Content and Consciousness. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
6. Dummett, Michael (1981): Frege: Philosophy of Language, 2nd edn. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
6. Fodor, J.A. (1990), A Theory of Content and Other Essays, Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press.
6. Hill, C., 1991, Sensations: A Defense of Type Materialism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
6. Lewis, David K. (1986), On the Plurality of Worlds, Oxford: Blackwell.
6. Lycan, W.G. (1987). Consciousness. (Cambridge, MA: Bradford Books / MIT Press.)
6. Rey, G., 1997. Contemporary Philosophy of Mind: A Contentiously Classical Approach. Oxford: Blackwell.
6. Thau, Michael, 2002, Consciousness and Cognition Oxford: Oxford University Press.
5. Armstrong, D.M. (1980). The Nature of Mind, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
5. Bach., K. (1987) Thought and Reference, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
5. Bermudez, J.L (1998) The Paradox of Self-Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
5. Clark, Andy (1997) Being There: putting brain, body, and world together again. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
5. Devitt, Michael (1996). Coming to our Senses: A Naturalistic Program for Semantic Localism, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
5. Flanagan, O. 1992. Consciousness Reconsidered. MIT Press.
5. Jackson, Frank (1998): From Metaphysics to Ethics. Oxford: Clarendon.
5. Kim, J., 1998, Mind in a Physical World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
5. Kim, Jaegwon, 1993, Supervenience and Mind Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
5. Larson, Richard and Segal, Gabriel (1995) Knowledge of Meaning. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
5. Loar, Brian (1981), Mind and meaning (Cambridge: Cambridge).
5. Papineau, D. (1987), Reality and Representation, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
5. Papineau, D., 2002. Thinking about Consciousness, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
5. Penrose, R. 1989. The Emperor's New Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 5
5. Perry, J. 2001. Knowledge, Possiblity, and Consciousness. MIT Press.
5. Pylyshyn, Zenon (1984). Computation and Cognition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
5. Schiffer, Stephen (1987) Remnants of Meaning. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press.
5. Sturgeon, S., 2000, Matters of Mind: Consciousness, Reason, and Nature, London: Routledge.
5. Williamson, T. 1994. Vagueness. London: Routledge.
5. Zalta, E.N. (1988) Intensional Logic and the Metaphysics of Intentionality, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Posted by Eric Schwitzgebel at 9:00 AM
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
On Monday, I posted a list of the most-cited ethicists in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Today I'm posting my list of most-cited philosophers of mind and language. I've generated these lists in connection with a particular research project -- comparing the rates at which ethics and non-ethics philosophy books are stolen from libraries -- but the results are, perhaps, independently interesting.
The method and caveats are described in my post on the ethicists. Let me add a few more comments here:
* I excluded posts that I took to be closer to philosophical logic than philosophy of language; often this was a judgment call that could have gone either way.
* I excluded philosophy of action / moral psychology.
* The bibliography on mental imagery was huge, creating some overrepresentation of authors who have written prominently on that topic (esp. Kosslyn, Pylyshyn, Paivio).
* Only first authors are counted for multiply-authored essays.
* There are approximately 7000 mind and language bibliographic lines, compared to over 9000 in ethics.
Here's the list, then. The number indicates the number of bibliographic lines in the relevant SEP entries. I find Kripke's relatively poor showing rather strange. It's probably due to a combination of distortive factors in this method of ranking.
148. Fodor, J.
98. Dennett, D.
94. Block, N.
74. Lewis, D.
73. Chalmers, D.
67. Dretske, F.
67. Tye, M.
66. Davidson, D.
66. Jackson, F.
64. Shoemaker, S.
58. Putnam, H.
56. Searle, J.
49. Burge, T.
49. Lycan, W.
44. Armstrong, D.
44. Peacocke, C.
40. Churchland, P. (Paul)
38. Quine, W.
35. Stalnaker, R.
33. Horgan, T.
33. Kripke, S.
32. Davies, M.
32. McGinn, C.
32. Rey, G.
32. Salmon, N.
32. Soames, S.
31. Schiffer, S.
30. Carruthers, P.
30. Nagel, T.
29. Loar, B.
28. Chomsky, N.
28. Clark, A. (Andy)
28. Kim, J.
28. Sellars, W.
27. Crane, T.
27. Kosslyn, S.
26. Byrne, A.
26. Millikan, R.
26. Perry, J.
25. McDowell, J.
25. Papineau, D.
25. Rosenthal, D.
24. Stich, S.
23. Grice, P.
23. Pylyshyn, Z.
22. Devitt, M.
22. Evans, G.
21. Bach, K.
21. Harman, G.
21. Martin, M.
20. Dummett, M.
20. Kaplan, D.
20. Levine, J.
19. Chisholm, R.
19. Richard, M.
19. Stanley, J.
18. Bechtel, W.
17. Hardin, C.
17. Heil, J.
17. King, J.
17. Paivio, A. (all citations from mental imagery)
16. Hill, C.
16. Strawson, P.
15. Smolensky, P.
15. Yablo, S.
14. Boghossian, P.
14. Brook, A.
14. Church, A.
14. Churchland, P. (Patricia)
14. Haugeland, J.
14. Place, U.
14. Smart, J.
14. White, S.
Coming Monday: A list of books in Philosophy of Mind/Language and in Ethics that appear in at least five different bibliographical lists from the SEP.
Posted by Eric Schwitzgebel at 9:30 AM
Monday, November 20, 2006
As part of my project of seeing whether ethicists (or at least readers of ethics) steal more or fewer books than non-ethicists, I need lists of eminent ethicists. (I can then look at the rate at which their books are stolen.) No easily-parsed list being handy, I created my own imperfect approximation by the following method:
I compiled all the bibliographies of ethics entries in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I included all areas of applied ethics and history of ethics, but I excluded moral psychology and philosophy of action. (Of course, in some cases this was a call that could have gone either way.) Then I looked for repeating names and counted the number of repeats. For example, if F.P. Wu had 4 articles cited in one entry, 2 articles cited in another, and one book cited in a third, he'd have a score of 7. I included only authors who published a substantial portion of their work after 1959.
Drawbacks of this methodology:
* The SEP still has large patches of incompleteness,
* The list will reflect the topical choices of the SEP editors (there are a large number of feminism-related entries, for example, and many fewer related to race).
* The bibliographies reflect the choices of the SEP entry writers, and disproportionately the choices of those who write long bibliographies.
* It's not always possible to determine which "Smith, L." (or whatever) is being referred to -- or at least not without more work than I am willing to do with the 9000+ bibliography lines.
* Authors who publish a number of articles may get a higher number of bibliographic lines than those who publish one (equally influential) book.
* Where an anthology is cited, it may not reflect the editor's research contributions. (However, normal practice in philosophy is not to cite the anthology but the essay within the anthology, leading with the essay-writer's name, unless the whole anthology is relevant.)
I'm sure there are other drawbacks to this method as well. Still, I thought some readers might find the results interesting. Here's the list, then:
93: Rawls, J.
77: Dworkin, R.
55: Williams, B.
51: Raz, J.
50: Nussbaum, M.
50: Feinberg, J.
49: Sen, A.K.
42: Kymlicka, W.
37: Scanlon, T.
36: Parfit, D.
36: Hart, H.
36: Frankfurt, H.
34: Walzer, M.
34: Foot, P.
33: Pogge, T.
32: Nagel, T.
32: Brandt, R.
30: Nozick, R.
30: Brink, D.
30: Arneson, R.
29: Young, I.
29: Waldron, J.
29: Hare, R.
29: Butler, J.
28: Vlastos, G.
28: Roemer, J.
28: Pettit, P.
28: Habermas, J.
27: Scheffler, S.
27: Blackburn, S.
27: Barry, B.
26: Taylor, C.
26: Railton, P.
26: Feldman, F.
25: Coleman, J.
24: Anderson, E.
23: MacIntyre, A.
23: Iragaray, L.
23: Gauthier, D.
23: Cohen, G.
23: Buchanan, A.
23: Benhabib, S.
22: Chisholm, R.
21: Temkin, L.
21: Okin, S.
21: Miller, D.
21: Kristeva, J.
21: Korsgaard, C.
21: Finnis, J.
21: Derrida, J.
21: Dancy, J.
20: Vallentyne, P.
20: MacKinnon, C.
20: Copp, D.
19: Sinnott-Armstrong, W.
19: Sandel, M.
19: Kagan, S.
19: Hurka, T.
19: Harman, G.
19: Fischer, J.
19: de Beauvoir, S.
18: Wolf, S.
18: Gibbard, A.
18: Code, L.
17: Singer, P.
17: Leiter, B.
17: Harsanyi, J.
17: Griffin, J.
17: Foucault, M.
17: Fleurbaey, M.
17: Cornell, D.
16: Thompson, J.
16: Sturgeon, N.
16: Sayre-McCord, G.
16: Narveson, J.
16: McDowell, J.
16: Jaggar, A.
16: Irwin, T.
16: Held, V.
16: Dworkin, G.
16: Darwall, S.
15: Smith, M.
15: Kraut, R.
15: Fraser, N.
15: Cohen, J.
Coming soon: A similar list in philosophy of mind and language.
UPDATE: Here's the philosophy of mind and language list.
Posted by Eric Schwitzgebel at 12:31 PM
Friday, November 17, 2006
On Wednesday, Gavin Lawrence spoke here at UC Riverside on Aristotle's conception of moral development. Lawrence argued that Aristotle stood something like "habituation" -- the acquisition of habits -- near the center of moral development, especially early moral development. Unfortunately, Lawrence left the concept of "habituation" relatively undeveloped.
One issue I find intriguing is the proper method of encouraging the acquisition of moral habits early in development.
Consider first a non-moral example: If you want a child to learn to like broccoli, is it better to force him to eat it again and again, expecting he'll learn to tolerate it more and eventually develop a taste for it? Or is forcing it counterproductive, leading the child increasingly to dislike it?
Correspondingly, if you want a child to learn to share, is it better to force her to share, or does forcing moral actions, contrary to the inclinations of the child's heart, only poison morality for her and impair her moral development?
In asking this question, I had the ancient Chinese philosophers Xunzi and Mencius in mind. Xunzi seems to adopt the first perspective as a general policy, and Mencius may endore the latter (if P.J. Ivanhoe's interpretation is right, though I worry that Ivanhoe depends too much on a dubious interpretation of Mengzi 2A2). Ivanhoe's Mencius suggests that the best spur to moral development is encouraging people to reflect and discover their joy at behaving morally in certain situations; and as you act morally and reflect on this joy, the moral inclinations grow in breadth and strength.
I posed this question to Lawrence in the discussion period after his talk. He suggested that he doubted Aristotle would have thought there was one universally best way to encourage moral development. Maybe sometimes it's better to force, at other times to lay off. Surely that must be right (if a bit cagey). I wonder if we can't lay moral educators on a spectrum depending on the extent to which they see habituation by coercion as an important and non-damaging tool in moral education, and then dispute about how far to one end or the other of this spectrum it's best to go.
I posed the same question to my seven-year-old son Davy that evening, and here's what he said:
If you want a child to learn to like broccoli, put tasty sauce on it. If you want a child to learn to like to share, start with his sharing something he doesn't like anyway and make sure the other child has something really cool to share back.
Ah, the wisdom of those on whom moral education (and broccoli) is inflicted!
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Here's an issue I find weirdly difficult: Can you introspect your judgments -- that is, your "occurrent", happening-now assessments of (for example) the truth or falsity of some proposition? (I distinguish such judgments from standing, dispositional beliefs.)
Surely we can, often, know what our judgments are. I'm thinking about whether there will be a department meeting next week. I reach the judgment that there won't be, and I can accurately tell myself and others that this is my judgment. But is such knowledge of our judgments generally derived through introspection, exactly?
Well, what is introspection? Here's a narrow definition I find attractive: Introspection is a species of attention to ongoing (or maybe very recently past) conscious experience. If, then, there is a conscious experience of judging that there won't be a department meeting next week, and if I get to know that that's my judgment by attending, in some way, to that conscious experience, then I've learned about my judgment through introspection. But does that happen? Can that happen? If it can happen, is it ordinary or exceptional? (Alvin Goldman and David Pitt seem to think it's ordinary, and indeed the rule in self-knowledge of attitudes.)
A number of philosophers, including Gareth Evans, Robert Gordon, Richard Moran, and Dorit Bar-On, have given non-introspective accounts of self-knowledge in such cases. Roughly speaking, on such views, we think about or attend to the world -- not our own minds -- and self-ascriptive statements like "I think there won't be a department meeting" are simply expressions of such external, world-oriented judgments, but in self-ascriptive language. We do not cast our eyes introspectively inward, as it were, every time we say that we think such-and-such is the case.
It's quite plausible that at least some of our self-ascriptive statements are non-introspective in (roughly) this way -- but are they all? Must they be?
Suppose, turning my mind to the question of whether there will be a department meeting next week, I find myself uttering, silently to myself in inner speech: "No, no department meeting". It seems I can discover this inner-speechy fact about myself though introspection, no? But introspecting inner speech isn't the same as introspecting judgment, is it? For example, if I'm reciting lines from a play silently in my head, or an advertising jingle, I may have inner speech without the corresponding judgment. It also seems that judgment often precedes inner speech.
Similar considerations apply to the visual imagery that may accompany (partly constitute?) a thought.
So is there some distinctive phenomenology specifically of judgment that we often are, or sometimes are, or at least in principle can be, introspectively attuned to, that serves or can serve as a basis for our knowledge about our judgments? I find it slipping my grasp....
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
So I updated my blog to the new Blogger Beta. (I didn't realize it was still in beta when I did so, though!) There are a few cool new features, like categories (finally!), but now Internet Explorer (not Firefox) gives all kinds of annoying pop-up "Security Information" windows on the comments pages.
Please be patient with that. Hopefully Blogger will resolve the issue. In the meantime, as far as I can tell the only thing you miss out on if you decline to show the "nonsecure items" is the beautiful photos of the comments' authors.
I seem to be having to log in more, also, rather than having the website recognize me.
Let me know if there are any other annoyances or inconveniences, and I can think about possible work-arounds.
Posted by Eric Schwitzgebel at 8:32 AM
Monday, November 13, 2006
You're a lost tourist. You hit up a local for directions. With apparent confidence and fluency, the local sends you in utterly the wrong direction. I experience this so regularly in travelling that I now no longer ask a single local for directions. About half the time, the second gives a completely different version from the first. Occasionally, someone will express a degree of uncertainty. Almost always, if she's at all uncertain, she's completely wrong; and many who seem perfectly confident are equally wrong.
I've been on the other end of this, too, at least twice, realizing that my directions were seriously mistaken only after having given them. In one case, I sent a Mexican family so far astray that I fear it would take them at least an hour recover, were they unwise enough to trust me!
Similarly, but more serious: The doctor tells you you have disease X, with evident assurance, no visible uncertainty. Another tells you you have disease Y. Or even: The doctor starts out seemingly uncertain, undecided, then settles on something as -- you might think, her best guess -- then, as she spells out the guess to you becomes seemingly confident about it, confident enough, apparently, to stake your health on it. But she's wrong, and in fact changes her opinion easily when the next doctor you see calls up the first and describes his different, better diagnosis.
Let's call this the "best guess phenomenon". In certain situations, when Person A is presumably an expert and Person B has no resources to challenge Person A's opinion, Person A will give her best guess, conveying it with authority and confidence regardless of how well-founded the opinion is. No malice is intended, nor any disguise. It's not that Person A knows she's uncertain and aims to conceal that fact. Rather, the situation invites Person A to take on the mantle of expertise, with very little sensitivity to the proper degree of confidence.
One model I think won't suffice for such cases: Conventional philosophical/economic treatments in terms of "degree of belief" on a scale from 0 to 1. Best-guess phenomena are not, I think, best described as cases in which Person A has an irrationally high degree of confidence. For example, if asked to make a serious wager -- for example, if the local wanted to get there herself, or if the doctor's own health were at stake -- she'd balk, admit uncertainty, consult elsewhere. Rather, it's more like degree of confidence doesn't arise as an issue: Person A is neither certain nor uncertain, really. She's just talking, playing authority as part of a social role, without much thought about how much certainty is justified.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Well, that title is a bit strong! But here's my thought (developed, in part, in conversation with someone at the Philosophy of Science Association meeting last week; I'll protect his privacy, though, unless he tells me he wants acknowledgement).
In psychology, there's a joke, which seems to have some truth in it (how much, exactly, is an interesting empirical question!), that the clinical psychologists are all crazy, the social psychologists are all socially awkward, the developmental psychologists act like children, etc. People are sometimes, it seems, drawn to fields that reflect something of their personal habits of thinking or problem areas in their lives. What about ethicists?
One way of developing the idea is this: Many philosophical ethicists like to approach ethics through explicit reasoning. That may reflect a durable habit or character trait that predates their choice of ethics as a field of study. And I'd wager, also, that there's a weakly negative correlation between being prone to reason in a cool, academic way about ethical matters and having strong gut reactions about such matters. Maybe if your gut doesn't tell you what to do morally, you're more prone to look toward explicit reasoning for moral guidance.
This raises the possibility -- I don't put this forward as a hypothesis, but merely as a possibility -- that a certain portion of those drawn to ethics as a discipline are so drawn because they're attracted to philosophical reasoning about ethical matters as compensation for weaker-than-average moral gut reactions. For them, moral philosophy is, perhaps, a sort of accommodation or crutch. We might then expect them to do morally well when faced with moral decisions of the sort fairly tractable to explicit reasoning and less well with other sorts of moral decisions.
I'd be interested to hear what you think, and also whether you think there's any way to cast empirical light on the matter.
Posted by Eric Schwitzgebel at 9:51 AM
Monday, November 06, 2006
Welcome to The Splintered Mind's hosting of The Philosopher’s Carnival! My seven-year-old son, Davy, has been asking me what philosophers do, so I thought I’d cast things in playground terms.
The Metaphysical Whirligig:
Whoa, I’m dizzy! Justin Kahn poses some cute and interesting problem cases for the principle of Ockham’s Razor. What kind of sick person would put razors on a children’s whirligig! Wa Salaam gives us mystical reflections on the moon. Phil for Humanity tells all the little children on the gig that Santa Claus – wait, no, I mean God – doesn’t exist, making them cry. How cruel! Ken Taylor claims that smart children can believe in Santa Claus -- or is that God? -- but the question is, how, given that the bad children seem to get just as many toys! Kenny Pearce isn’t so sure that it follows from the fact that he has hands that the physical world exists. The Boundaries of Language reflects on the scope of Dummett’s anti-realism; this is for serious and scholarly children. Heterodoxia warns us that some insights are just too cold for our little hands to handle. We are fearful, hubristic, romantic. The children boo! But Heterodoxia knew they would! Glittering Muse ponders on “nothing” in a way that reminds my son of Heidegger’s remark that “nothing noths” – uh-oh, now there’s this little kid calling himself Carnap who wants to push him off the gig. No, no – Carnap wants to explode the whole gig. Bail out! I here at The Splintered Mind simply wish I knew what metaphysics was.
The Philosophy of Mind Sandpit:
Brain Hammer manages to get the children arguing loudly about whether there’s a difference between the sand’s seeming wet and our simply having the disposition to judge that it’s wet. (But why is it wet, I worry?) Neil Levy reflects on whether the mind stays within the skull or drips and fiddles all over the place. Maybe mine is buried even, right here in this sand! Whoops, not here -- David Chalmers, who is known sometimes to play in the external mind-sands, discovers instead an old, almost entirely ignored article by Fred Dretske spoofing sense-data theories. The Philosopher’s Playground, unearthing a copy of Alice in Wonderland, invites us to reconsider the question of whether we can intentionally believe that the Queen is 101 years old, five months, and a day. Aaron Cotnoir wonders if Alice shouldn’t be blamed if she can’t, or should be if she can. Salamander Candy reflects on what raccoons think of all us children, and how we know whether there’s anything we do look like to raccoons, and how we know there’s anything, indeed, we look like to ourselves. And, if I remember correctly, Philosophy of Memory[sorry for the unspecific link; there seem to be server problems] invites us to think about individual differences in memory.
Philosophy of Language’s Curving Tunnel:
John Greco starts the children off with a serious lesson on contextualism vs. interest-dependent invariantism. Good stuff, but most of the children can’t even pronounce the title. Into the darkness you go! Lemmings asks whether Leibniz would tell all the children that if this piece of play-doh is cruddy but the sculpture they make with it is not cruddy, then the sculpture is not identical to this piece of play-doh. My, my – but I can barely even see it at all, Brit! Dinner Table Don’ts asks about the transitivity of subjunctive conditionals. If only he didn’t talk about this, we’d finally start having fun. If there was a nuclear holocaust, he wouldn’t talk about this. Therefore, if there was a nuclear holocaust, we’d finally start having fun. Wait, that doesn’t seem quite right.... Is this why Gregory Wheeler says conditionals are bad for your health? Benjamin Nelson curves into the deepest darkness of what he calls “Pattern-Oriented Relational Grammar”; too much for a simple seven-year-old like me!
The Epistemic Slide:
Fred Vaughan gives us The Given, but the other children aren’t sure we shouldn’t start our epistemic slide with stainless steel instead. Do you want to stand atop an idea, looking down?
The Moral Teeter-Totter:
Daylight Atheism sets the moral teeter-totter rocking: What we approve of and condemn is historically contingent! Suggested are some issues that future generations might see in a different light. Carnival maven Richard Chappell warns against vigilantism against the Atheistic kid, even if he seems unreasonable – for which the Atheist had better be thankful, I say! Joseph Orosco, however, asks whether “choosing torture might be a democratic prerogative”; playground bullies everywhere agree! Andy Egan wonders if it's fair to ask, though, what the idealized bully self would do. Hell’s Handmaiden argues against the electoral college. College?! Heck, we’re barely in elementary school, shout the kids. Funkified rides the teeter-totter without thinking, purely spontaneously, which he thinks [?] is best! Hueina Su reminds all children that they must love themselves. Westminster Wisdom inquires into the principles of judicial independence; the children make it plain that they like clear rules and consistency, except when the contrary is to their advantage! Moralheath claims that moral objectivity has “fallen upon hard times”, explaining our bad behavior. As though to prove him right, Francios Temblay jumps entirely off the teeter-totter arguing that all morality is just a “religo-political smokescreen”! (But he falls into Pea Soup, where the distinction between moral realism and anti-realism is viscous and murky.)
Philosophy of Science Picnic Table:
The Voltage Gate tells all little children about the politics in the history of the science of human racial diversity. Children of all colors gather round, but they can’t tell each other apart! They may lie about their data, though. Janet Stemwedel wants to know why. Well, of course it's that their parents didn't raise them right! Humbug Online warns all children about too easily dismissing induction. Hasn’t the Humbug learned that each time someone raises this problem it only causes piss and consternation among the boys and girls at the table? Or will it be different, finally, this time?
The Historical Jungle Gym:
A Brood Comb invites us to think about Hegel’s dialectics with the example of left-right. Oh no! Soon the other children are upside-down and reaching the wrong direction, falling off the jungle gym into the deep sand of dialectic! Rethink rails on poor Cleitophon from Plato’s republic, for being concerned only about his reputation and nothing for the common good, a malady he finds all too common. Frankly, I’m surprised to see someone so long dead still taking insults on the jungle gym. But actually, it seems that Cleitophon hasn’t moved much recently – in the last, say, 2000 years at least. Phluaria takes on Socrates himself, asking if he was schizoid! And somewhere in the sand under the Jungle Gym, The Skwib found some of Henri Bergson’s lost PowerPoint slides!
A number of children submitted political diatribes of various sorts. That's not the sandbox I remember! With apologies to them, and in keeping with The Splintered Mind's largely apolitical spirit, I have chosen not to include in this week’s carnival anything that seemed to me more politics than political philosophy.
A Plea for Chaperones:
There is no volunteer for the next carnival. Bloggers: If your blog is listed here, and you have never hosted, I herewith assert that you are morally obligated to host. No, no, children, don’t run away! It’s not as bad as having to set the dinner table, I promise. Go here and sign up! (Or else the Carnival will crumble, and that's the end of all your juicy links....)
Posted by Eric Schwitzgebel at 2:35 PM
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Tomorrow I'll be at the Philosophy of Science Association meeting in Vancouver. In lieu of my usual Friday post, I offer a link instead to PMS-WIPS over at The Brain Hammer, where the paper under consideration is my The Unreliability of Naive Introspection (which, by the way, is also what I'll be presenting at the PSA).
Posted by Eric Schwitzgebel at 2:10 PM
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
In virtue of what am I conscious, while chicken soup is not? Most philosophers regard this as a metaphysical question. It is widely held that something about my internal structure – the organization of my material parts – makes me conscious. Perhaps there is something special about neurons, or perhaps the relevant feature is the abstract functional relationships between my internal states, and between those states and my environment and behavior. Or maybe internal structure is irrelevant: If I possess the right causal relationships to my environment and/or the right behavioral dispositions, I am conscious, regardless of my internal organization.
Or one might reject materialism. Perhaps an immaterial soul is necessary, or the possession of immaterial properties. But in virtue of what do I have an immaterial soul or immaterial properties, while chicken soup does not? One might invoke a powerful, soul-imbuing deity, or one might relate the immaterial somehow to internal, material structure or to material causes and behavior patterns. Or perhaps everything is conscious, including the chicken soup; or material things do not exist at all. Or maybe there's some flaw in the very idea of "material".
If this doesn’t exhaust the alternatives, at least it comes close. Unfortunately, every one of these alternatives has seriously counterintuitive consequences. Most people find it intuitively plausible that alien or artificial beings, entirely lacking neural structures like our own, could at least in principle be conscious. Holding neurons to be uniquely capable of grounding consciousness contradicts that intuition. On the other hand, Block and Searle have shown that it is counterintuitive to regard as conscious everything with the right functional organization, or the right causal relationships to the environment and behavioral dispositions, regardless of composition – for example if the structure is implemented by a vast population of people communicating by radio, or by beer cans and wire in outer space. One might suggest that although neurons aren’t strictly necessary, something resembling neurons in some important way is necessary, but it is doubtful that one can escape the dilemma by that maneuver. Any organization functionally similar to human neural structure could probably be implemented in a system to which it would be counterintuitive to ascribe consciousness. More biochemical measures of similarity seem bound to exclude conceivably conscious aliens of some stripe. Insistence that the system be naturally evolved rules out some of the weirdest systems, but it also rules out the intuitively appealing possibility of conscious robots or conscious brains grown in vats.
Non-materialist views suffer similar difficulties. Naturalistic dualism faces the problems described in the previous paragraph with respect to classifying the kinds of systems that have immaterial souls or immaterial properties. Supernatural dualism faces issues of how immaterial substances could have physical effects and of the apparent smooth gradation from beings without consciousness to beings with consciousness in both phylogeny and development, as well as general arguments against the existence of supernatural entities. Panpsychism and idealism are counterintuitive from the outset. And, finally, it's hard to see how some weak notion of "material" could be fundamentally and ineliminably flawed or what it would buy us if it were.
None of this should be news to anyone who has taught a survey course in philosophy of mind. Every metaphysician of mind has to “bite the bullet” on some issue or other – that is, accept certain counterintuitive consequences of his or her position. But how to know which bullet is best to bite? We could try somehow to compare the relative unintuitiveness of various positions - but even if we could do that in some plausible way, using it as our metaphysical method presupposes that our everyday and philosophical armchair intuitions are a good guide to the nature of consciousness, including in strange cases involving aliens, etc. - and that seems to me a rather doubtful position (see my post "Metaphysics, What?"). But, on the other hand, it doesn't seem that there's any straightforward empirical, scientific way to determine whether a silicon-based alien that behaved much like us (for example) has genuine conscious phenomenology (as opposed to merely behaving as though he does), without begging the metaphysical question at the outset. So I'm at a loss.
Let me dub the view that something weird must be true about the mind, but who knows what weird thing is true, weirdism.
Posted by Eric Schwitzgebel at 10:25 AM