In Which I Predict That a Certain Event Will Happen

To anyone interested in the following session of the Auburn U. Philosophical Society, Friday 6 November at 3:00pm Central (= 4:00 Eastern = 2:00 Pacific), you’re welcome to join us by Zoom.  Sessions usually run from between 90 mins. to 2 hrs., with the first half devoted to presentation and the second half to Q&A&A (questions & answers & argument).

Speaker: Dr. Dilip Ninan (Tufts U.)

Title:  “Assertion, Evidence, and the Future”

Abstract:  “In this talk, I use a puzzle about assertion and the passage of time to explore the pragmatics, semantics, and epistemology of future discourse. The puzzle arises because there appear to be cases in which: one is in a position to assert, at an initial time T1, that a certain event E will happen; one loses no evidence between T1 and later time T2; but one is nevertheless not in a position, at T2, to assert that E happened. I examine a number of possible explanations of this phenomenon: that assertions about the past give rise to an implicature about one’s evidence that are not carried by assertions about the future; that assertions about the future are not “categorical” in the way assertions about the past are; that one can lose knowledge of a fact F when then the passage of time transforms F from a fact about one’s future into a fact about one’s past. I argue that the third of these approaches is the most promising, and attempt to develop a specific version of it in some detail.”

Attendees are being asked to register beforehand. In other words, the link below is NOT the link to the meeting. Instead, if you follow the link below, you’ll be asked for your email address. Once you submit it, the meeting link will be emailed to you. You’ll need to make sure you register before the talk. 

https://auburn.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIsf-uorTwuHd1EObDf1zlfJgE1d4xz8zPI

Double Double Toil and Trouble

Future historians will look back at the history of the u.s. in the 20th (and early 21st) century with the gravest suspicion.

According to the received chronology, they’ll note:

  • From 1901 to 1909, a president named Roosevelt, formerly governor of New York, held office, promoting policies of corporate elitism in the guise of economic populism.
  • From 1933 to 1945, a supposedly different president named Roosevelt, likewise formerly governor of New York, held office, likewise promoting policies of corporate elitism in the guise of economic populism.
  • From 1914 to 1918, a worldwide war waged, pitting Germany on one side against France, Britain, Russia, and the u.s. on the other; Germany lost.
  • From 1939 to 1945, a supposedly different worldwide war waged, pitting Germany on one side against France, Britain, Russia, and the u.s. on the other; once again, Germany lost.
  • From 1950 to 1953, the u.s. was involved, on the southern side, in a war between northern (Communist) and southern (anti-Communist) divisions of a formerly unified country on an Asian peninsula bordering China, with China and Russia giving assistance to the northern side.
  • From 1961 (or so) to 1975, the u.s. was involved, on the southern side, in a supposedly different war between northern (Communist) and southern (anti-Communist) divisions of a formerly unified country on a supposedly different Asian peninsula bordering China, with China and Russia once again giving assistance to the northern side.
  • In 1988, a New England preppy turned Texas oilman named George Bush was elected president; shortly after being elected, he sent troops to invade Iraq in opposition to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
  • In 2000, a supposedly different New England preppy turned Texas oilman likewise named George Bush was elected president; shortly after being elected, he too sent troops to invade Iraq in opposition to (the same) Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The historians will say:  it’s clear enough what’s happened here.  Evidently two somewhat inconsistent chronologies have been overlaid on each other, creating a series of artificial doublets.  Surely there was just one president Roosevelt, just one Germany-versus-u.s.-plus-everybody war, just one northern-Communists-versus-southern-u.s.-allies Asian peninsular war, just one president George Bush, and just one u.s.-versus-Iraq war. 

After all, no one in their right mind would choose to live through any of those things twice.

If another member of the Trump family gets elected president in the next few years, the hypothesis will only be confirmed. (As it would likewise have been had a second president Clinton been elected in 2016.)

Meanwhile, in a Parallel Election

I voted!

No, not in the u.s. election – Ἀθηνᾶ κρείττων!

Nah, I voted for which book we will read next in the Auburn Science Fiction and Philosophy Reading Group.

This was a more cheerful and civilised affair than the u.s. election in at least seven ways:

1. Minority choices have no trouble getting on the ballot; any individual member of the group can nominate a book (or several), without having to collect multiple signatures on a petition.

2. The number of participants is small enough that any individual vote has an actual chance of making a decisive difference to the outcome.

3. Voting involves rank-ordering the candidates via an online Condorcet poll, so no one has to choose between voting for their favourite among the front runners and voting for their favourite absolutely.

4. We choose a new book every month or two, so there’s strict rotation in office with very short terms – no perpetually incumbent books.

5. The reading group is a purely voluntary association. If any members aren’t happy with the winning choice, and want to go off on their own to read and discuss a different book, the rest of us wouldn’t dream of trying to stop them, let alone telling them that by voting (or by not voting) they have committed themselves to reading the winning book.

6. All the books nominated look worthwhile, and I would be happy to read and discuss any of them.

7. Facebook has not been reminding me every few minutes to vote for the next book.

O idéal lointain!

Who Is Sheldon Richman, and Why Does He Hate the Constitution and American Greatness? and Why Does He Love Jihadis, French Communism, Godless Atheism, and Weird-Ass Epistemology?

In Part 1 of this 2-part interview, I chat with Sheldon Richman about his youthful enthusiasm for the Swamp Fox and his guerilla fighters; the Constitution as a betrayal of the American Revolution and the Articles of Confederation; defying YAF with Karl Hess at the March to the Arch; the positive externalities achievable by sitting next to Dave Barry; using Koch money to fight big business; Robert Bidinotto’s dark anarchist past; the perils of publishing Kevin Carson; going crazy for Thomas Szasz; the identity of Filthy Pierre; how to smoke like Gandalf; an atheist’s favourite Bishop; and which prominent Austrian economist experimented on Sheldon’s newborn infant.

In Part 2, we chat about the Israeli occupation of Palestine; u.s. intervention in the Middle East; the meaning of Jewish identity; the relation between libertarian individualism and social cooperation; the communistic theories of Frédéric Bastiat; the theologico-political merits of Spinoza; Nathaniel Branden and George H. Smith on atheism; Thomas Paine and Lysander Spooner on deism; the philosophical failings of the New Atheists; rehabilitating the cost-of-production theory of value; the uses of coherentist epistemology for both theists and atheists; reading Wittgenstein for relaxation; the advantages and disadvantages of Randian approaches to knowledge and concepts; the sordid truth behind the special effects in Roderick’s videos (and in particular, what the deal is with Roderick’s hair); Sheldon’s case against open Borders; and the shocking misuse of libertarian think tank resources to photocopy body parts (but who did it, Sheldon or Roderick? and which body parts? watch and learn!).

Decaffeinated Philosophy: The Existence of God; or, Apophat Boy Slim

It’s long been the custom of the Auburn U. Philosophy Club to hold a public meeting at a local coffee house – generally either Mama Mocha’s or the Coffee Cat – where a panel composed of both students and faculty from the department give brief presentations on some philosophical topic of general interest, followed by Q&A.

In light of the Current Unpleasantness, this semester’s panel will be online via Zoom rather than in-person, which will sadly mean no access to the venue’s excellent coffee. But we must soldier on with a decaffeinated, or at least less gloriously caffeinated, version of our usual caffeinated-philosophy event. And the positive side is that folks not physically present in Auburn will be able to attend.

The topic for this semester’s panel is “The Existence of God.” I will be one of the speakers (and my contribution will of course decisively settle the theism vs. atheism debate once and for all! – although in my experience neither side tends to be very fond of my solution). It will be held on Wednesday, October 7th, at 7:00pm Central (8:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific). The meeting is free and open to the public; but please register in advance at https://auburn.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIvce6gqjguGdJC7olVpoP-TnWgaZtUCkKr. After registering, you’ll receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Be there or B2!