Many of us feel that we have a duty to participate in politics in one way or another. But a lot of political participation seems to be causally futile. Maybe the most obvious example of this is voting in very large elections (such as a national presidential election). The chances of casting the deciding vote are astronomically small. So a natural question arises: why would we have a duty to do something that is almost guaranteed to make no relevant causal impact? Chris Freiman, a philosopher at the college of William & Mary, proposes an answer: we have no such duty. In this interview, he addresses a number of objections to this response, including objections from free-riding, complicity with injustice, expressive duty, and, of course, the ever-popular “but if everyone thought this way…”. We conclude with a discussion of Peter Singer-inspired arguments to the effect that not only are we allowed to ignore politics, but we are in fact morally obligated to do so.
0:00 – Intro to Chris Freiman and public goods
5:12 – Futile political participation, voting, thresholds
18:34 – “If everybody thought this way” and free-riding
33:55 – Complicity with injustice and accepting state benefits
43:09 – You can always leave, an obligation to tax evasion?…
There’s something puzzling about intentionally acquiring a new value: if we don’t already have the value, what motivates us to acquire it? This is best understood through an example: a young student takes a music appreciation class in order to learn to appreciate the value of classical music. She doesn’t already appreciate the value of classical music—if she did, she wouldn’t need the class. But if she doesn’t appreciate its value, why take the class? The class is hard work, after all: she must spend hours listening to music that she doesn’t yet appreciate!
Philosopher Agnes Callard calls this kind of intentional value acquisition ‘aspiration’. In this interview, we discuss a number of issues surrounding aspiration: how it is possible, how it begins, why one cannot aspire to be a gangster, and perhaps most surprisingly, how aspiration accounts for how we can author of our own lives. Along the way, we discuss the nature of motivation, future-to-past normative grounding, and the immortality of the soul. We end with a quick discussion of the value of public philosophy.
0:02 – Intro to Agnes Callard
3:50 – What is aspiration?
5:13 – What aspiration is not
17:27 – Moral skepticism and aspiration
24:04 – Proleptic reasons and motivation
45:13 – Starting to aspire and the direction of self-creation
55:40 – Future to past normative grounding, ontological commitment, and motion
1:11:52 – The value of aspiration, the good life, and the immortality of the soul
1:28:42 – The value of public philosophy
In recent years, philosophers have debated the question of logical pluralism: the view that there is more than one correct logic (see my interview with Greg Restall on this very issue). The idea, roughly, is that which putative logical laws hold depends on what sorts of “cases” we take logic to be about; different kinds of cases yield different (but equally legitimate) logics. A common logical monist objection is to say that a form of argument is only a logical law if it applies in all cases. If this is true, it raises the question: what argument forms do hold in all cases? At this point in the debate, a third position becomes viable, defined by the answer: none.
Gillian Russell, a philosopher of language and logic, argues both that applying in all cases is necessary for qualifying as a logical law; and that no argument form applies in all cases. As such, she believes there are no logical laws. Much of our discussion surrounds her claim that no argument form applies to all cases. Is this really true even of the law of non-contradiction, the “law” that says that ‘A and not-A’ can never be true? Of conjunction elimination (‘A and B’ entails ‘A’)? Of identity (‘A’ entails ‘A’)? Russell runs through purported counterexamples to these laws; what’s more, she illustrates a method for conjuring counterexamples to any proposed “law”.