Best Philosophical Blogging of 2015
December 28, 2015 10:21 AM   Subscribe

 
I'm really uneasy with the framing of passing on article #2. The way Daniel Silvermint bring trans passing into the article sets up the frame for people in the comments (and elsewhere I'm sure) to conflate trans people confirming and aligning their gender with other people racially passing. They are not analogous to each other at all.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:01 PM on December 28, 2015


i am pretty involved with Effective Altruism and i am pleased a good article with some intelligent critique has won an award. Any community needs some way to counter insider bias and hopefully this will promt renemwed discussion of these issues.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 12:09 PM on December 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh dear, having fully read the article instead of skimming it I retract my previous comment. This is an article written by someone without even a basic understanding of economics or effective altruism attempting to knit two strawmen together to create a marxist straw doll. It is baffling how "we should be giving more money to anti-malaria bednets" gets distorted into "effective altruistis don't care about instiutions" except deliberate misreading.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 12:22 PM on December 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Who is 3QD and should I care? The winning entry seemed quite unphilosophical to me.
posted by mary8nne at 12:27 PM on December 28, 2015


#1 sucked. Badly. It was a mishmash of appeals to emotion and confusing of the actual fact (a child who has been born) with the potential fact (a fetus, which has not). Not sure why this one was picked.

#2 is much better, though really not all that philosophical, but more psychosociological.

#3, well, I don't know what to make of it. It really is trying to delve deeply into ethics, or at least an aspect of it, but the author's writing is turgid and sometimes ambiguous:
What I here want to pick out from the debate is their picture the social world and of human institutions, which I take to be flawed. It is an illustration of why moral philosophy should not neglect the world we live in and the institutions that structure it.
I can't really find a thesis. The evasion of an explicit alternative to the one being critiques is illustrated by this passage:
I take it that there is something missing in this picture, something deep and important about human life. Economic man has often been criticized for being utterly unrealistic: human beings are far less rational, and have a far broader range of motivations, and how he behaves depends on the social settings he finds himself in. These criticisms carry over to the picture that is implicitly presupposed in effective altruism.
The author seems unaware of the point of view that when humans make decisions, the decisions themselves put bounds on utilities, even if they don't define them exactly. Certainly, some sets of decisions may be appear to be incoherent under any monotonic utility function, but that doesn't mean there aren't utilities operating.

In short, I'm saddened if this is the best philosophical blogging has to offer. On the other hand, I found both the free will and the counterfactual entries engaging and helpful.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:30 PM on December 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Substantive criticisms are fine, but it seems very odd to claim that these posts are not philosophical. The picks were selected by John Collins, who is an Associate Professor and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Philosophy at Columbia University and an editor of The Journal of Philosophy, which is one of the top journals in professional philosophy. I take it that this is a strong endorsement of his understanding of what properly belongs to the field: he's busy helping shape it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:38 PM on December 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


The picks were selected by John Collins,

Not exactly: "There will then be a round of voting by our readers which will narrow down the entries to the top twenty semi-finalists. After this, we will take these top twenty voted-for nominees, and the editors of 3 Quarks Daily will select six finalists from these, plus they may also add up to three wildcard entries of their own choosing. The three winners will be chosen from these by Dr. Collins."
posted by Jahaza at 12:43 PM on December 28, 2015


That doesn't seem relevant, since he claims that all the finalists count as philosophy in the relevant sense, as he says at the beginning of his explanation of his picks: "The nine finalists for this year's 3QD Philosophy Prize are all very fine examples of philosophical blogging. They combine clarity, immediacy, subtlety, humanity, and provocation."
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:50 PM on December 28, 2015


I guess I have a much narrower view of what constitutes philosophy vs. other humanities, not in concert with the prevailing view. I accept that John Collins has a more legitimate position from which to judge. My assertions of low philosophical content are clearly mistaken, but I stand by my substantive critiques.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:20 PM on December 28, 2015


philosophical blogging is hard because it is trying to achieve a balance between popularity and correctness, and correctness means situating the argument in a complex historical framework.

not for the first time, i wish angus deaton and angus deayton didn't almost share names.
posted by andrewcooke at 1:22 PM on December 28, 2015


The picks were selected by John Collins, who is an Associate Professor and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Philosophy at Columbia University and an editor of The Journal of Philosophy

Those don't appear to be substantially independent qualifications. All of the "editors" of the journal are professors at Columbia except Charles Larmore, who was a professor in the philosophy department there for more than a decade.
posted by Jahaza at 1:24 PM on December 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


#1 sucked. Badly. It was a mishmash of appeals to emotion and confusing of the actual fact (a child who has been born) with the potential fact (a fetus, which has not). Not sure why this one was picked.

The article didn't do that. Where in the article is this done? The entire article? How? Why make assertions like this without explaining? That's really convenient.

#3… The author seems unaware of the point of view that when humans make decisions, the decisions themselves put bounds on utilities, even if they don't define them exactly. Certainly, some sets of decisions may be appear to be incoherent under any monotonic utility function, but that doesn't mean there aren't utilities operating.

I'll translate the author's point: Since real utilities must be non-monotonic in very nontrivial ways, effective altruists have made the mistake of oversimplifying, by naively restricting their decision space. They are not being economic enough! I.e., Economic man is not properly economic; it's bad economics.

Good philosophers think about what they've read.
posted by polymodus at 2:01 PM on December 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'll translate the author's point: Since real utilities must be non-monotonic in very nontrivial ways, effective altruists have made the mistake of oversimplifying, by naively restricting their decision space. They are not being economic enough! I.e., Economic man is not properly economic; it's bad economics.

Can you try, um, translating again? When I hear "non-monotonic" to me it means that the rate of change varies in sign -- it goes positive, negative, positive, or whatever. If my utility function is non-monotonic, it means I want more of something, but then if I have too much, I start wanting less of it (or vice versa) so there's a peak or valley somewhere. But how does that relate to effective altruism vs. whatever the alternative is? EA's have monotonic utility functions (in what?) and this is a mistake (why?). I'm not sure what you're getting at.
posted by officer_fred at 3:06 PM on December 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


The three winners were interesting reads, but the Philosopher's Beard won me with this:

(Some abortion activists make a great deal of the innocence of foetuses, the ultimate non-achievers)

I didn't think I'd laugh out loud when reading a philosophy blog questioning the "worth" of a life.
posted by brain.eat.brain at 7:34 PM on December 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


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