Amie Thomasson: Ontology Made Easy | Who Shaves the Barber? #23

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Amie Thomasson Ontology
Amie Thomasson

Do tables really exist?

While debate over such a seemingly trivial question may initially sound ridiculous, the existence of “ordinary objects” is a controversial question in contemporary metaphysics. Events, numbers, properties, and “mereological sums” are among other contested “objects”. Indeed, ontology today is a bit of a quagmire of proposed objects and criteria for existence.

One of the major voices in this field is that of philosopher Amie Thomasson, who claims that ontology can actually be quite simple. In this interview, Prof. Thomasson walks us through the recent history of ontology – from Carnap to Quine to the contemporary arena – and offers a diagnosis of how things got so muddled. She then offers her alternative, which she calls “easy ontology”. According to her view, since we know that “I have two apples” is true (assuming it is), then it follows that the number of apples is two, and so that there is a number two, and therefore that at least one number exists. In this part 1, Thomasson draws out both the history of these debates and her own approach. In the second half, she’ll defend it against common objections.

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Topics discussed

0:10 – Introduction to Amie Thomasson
2:43 – What is ontology?
4:21 – Arguments against tables and chairs
8:30 – Quine and the neo-Quinean approach
22:13 – Carnap on internal versus external questions (use v. mention)
33:39 – Criteria for existence
36:07 – Easy ontology

Sources

Ontology Made Easy by Amie Thomasson
Ordinary Objects by Amie Thomasson
Metaphysical Disputes and Metalinguistic Negotiations” by Amie Thomasson
On What There Is” by W.V.O.…

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Michael Zigismund: Philosophy of Law | Who Shaves the Barber? #22

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Before the law, there is the philosophy of law

What is the law? Is it simply what’s to be found in legal statutes and government decrees? Or is it something broader, affected by and inseparable from both morality and custom?

This is one of the fundamental debates in philosophy of law. On one side stand the positivists, who propose a narrow view of the law as separate from ethics and other concerns outside of the direct commands of the state. On the other, we have natural rights theorists, who believe the law and morality are inseparable. Indeed, according to natural rights theorists, illegitimate laws aren’t laws at all.

On what grounds may this debate be settled? And what’s really at stake here? Is there more to this than a question of semantics? Legal expert Michael Zigismund guides us through this debate, and applies it to three areas: Nazi law, slavery, and gun ownership. He concludes with a summary of a “third way”, which he argues takes the best of both while avoiding their pitfalls: the Hayekian view of law as emergent practice.

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Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.

Topics discussed

0:20 – Introduction to Michael Zigismund
2:02 – What is law?
8:53 – Common law v. customary law
11:36 – Positivism v. natural law
16:45 – Is Nazi law law?
19:23 – Separation thesis
22:54 – Application to federalism
26:14 – Where does morality of law come from?…

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Why (I) Do Philosophy | Who Shaves the Barber? #21

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Philosophy’s an odd practice. It can be abstract, technical, and complicated to the point of appearing incomprehensible; and the generality of the subject matter can make it seem like it isn’t really about anything at all. It certainly doesn’t seem to make a great deal of progress over time. So why the hell does anyone do it?

Here I propose three main reasons I think people do philosophy: competitive craftsmanship, scientific inquiry, and spirituality. The first breaks down into two subcategories – craftsmanship and competition – as does the second – curiosity and improving the world. Just how does philosophy satisfy each of these needs? Do people really pursue philosophy in order to satisfy them? And can they actually be satisfied by philosophy? I conclude with some words about how these apply to why I’m pursuing philosophy (eg, doing this podcast), and specifically why I’m not pursuing academic philosophy.

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Next week: Michael Zigismund: Philosophy of Law
Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.

Topics discussed

0:20 – Intro: why do I do philosophy?
3:44 – What is philosophy?
9:03 – What sort of question is “why do philosophy?”?
14:04 – Three reasons: competitive craftsmanship, scientific inquiry, spirituality
14:26 – Competitive craftsmanship: philosophy as art or game
15:51 – Arguments
18:30 – Virtues of competition
25:08 – Carry-over benefits
26:46 – The rules of the game applied to the rules of the game: self-reference, regress, form become content, grounding
34:12 – Creation v.…

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