Could Someone Still Be Collecting a Civil War Widow's Pension? A Possibility Proof
The Splintered Mind By Eric Schwitzgebel
by Eric Schwitzgebel
1w ago
In 1865, a 14-year-old boy becomes a Union soldier in the U.S. Civil War. In 1931, at age 90, he marries an 18-year-old woman, who continues to collect his Civil War pension after he dies. Today, in early 2024, she is one hundred and ten years old, still collecting that pension. I was inspired to this thought by reflecting about some long-dead people my father knew, who survive in my memory through his stories. How far back might such second-hand memories go? Farther than one might initially suppose -- in principle, back to the 1860s. An elderly philosopher, alive today, might easily have seco ..read more
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What Types of Argument Convince People to Donate to Charity? Empirical Evidence
The Splintered Mind By Eric Schwitzgebel
by Eric Schwitzgebel
1w ago
Back in 2020, Fiery Cushman and I ran a contest to see if anyone could write a philosophical argument that convinced online research participants to donate a surprise bonus to charity at rates statistically above control. (Chris McVey, Josh May, and I had failed to write any successful arguments in some earlier attempts.) Contributions were not permitted to mention particular real people or events, couldn't be narratives, and couldn't include graphics or vivid descriptions. We wanted to see whether relatively dry philosophical arguments could move people to donate. We received 90 submissions ..read more
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Swallows and Moles in Philosophy
The Splintered Mind By Eric Schwitzgebel
by Eric Schwitzgebel
3w ago
In his review (in the journal Science -- cool!) of my recently released book, The Weirdness of the World, Edouard Machery writes: There are two kinds of philosophers: swallows and moles. Swallows love to soar and to entertain philosophical hypotheses at best loosely connected with empirical knowledge. Plato and Gottfried Leibniz are paradigmatic swallows. Moles, on the contrary, rummage through mundane facts about our world and aim at better understanding it. Aristotle, William James, and Hans Reichenbach are paradigmatic moles. Eric Schwitzgebel is unabashedly a swallow. Machery admits to hav ..read more
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The Weirdness of the World: Release Day and Introduction
The Splintered Mind By Eric Schwitzgebel
by Eric Schwitzgebel
1M ago
Today is the official U.S. release day of my newest book, The Weirdness of the World! As a teaser, here's the introduction: In Praise of Weirdness The weird sisters, hand in hand, Posters of the sea and land, Thus do go about, about: Thrice to thine and thrice to mine And thrice again, to make up nine. Peace! the charm’s wound up. —Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act I, scene iii Weird often saveth The undoomed hero if doughty his valor! —Beowulf, X.14–15, tr anslated by J. Lesslie Hall The word “weird” has deep roots in old English, originally as a noun for fate or magic, later evolving toward its pre ..read more
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Demographic Trends in the U.S. Philosophy Major, 2001-2022 -- Including Total Majors, Second Majors, Gender, and Race
The Splintered Mind By Eric Schwitzgebel
by Eric Schwitzgebel
1M ago
I'm preparing for an Eastern APA session on the "State of Philosophy" next Thursday, and I thought I'd share some data on philosophy major bachelor's degree completions from the National Center for Education Statistics IPEDS database, which compiles data on virtually all students graduating from accredited colleges and universities in the U.S., as reported by administrators. I examined all data from the 2000-2001 academic year (the first year in which they started recording data on second majors) through 2021-2022 (the most recent available year). Total Numbers of Philosophy Majors: The D ..read more
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Credence-Weighted Robot Rights?
The Splintered Mind By Eric Schwitzgebel
by Eric Schwitzgebel
1M ago
You're a firefighter in the year 2050 or 2100. You can rescue either one human, who is definitely conscious, or two futuristic robots, who might or might not be conscious. What do you do? [Illustration by Nicolas Demers, from my newest book, The Weirdness of the World, to be released Jan 16 and available for pre-order now.] Suppose you think there's a 75% chance that the robots have conscious lives as rich as those of human beings (or, alternatively, that they have whatever else it takes to have "full moral status" equivalent to that of a human). And suppose you think there's a 25% chance th ..read more
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Writings of 2023
The Splintered Mind By Eric Schwitzgebel
by Eric Schwitzgebel
2M ago
Each New Year's Day, I post a retrospect of the past year's writings. Here are the retrospects of 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 ..read more
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Normativism about Swimming Holes, Anger, and Beliefs
The Splintered Mind By Eric Schwitzgebel
by Eric Schwitzgebel
2M ago
Among philosophers studying belief, normativism is an increasingly popular position. According to normativism, beliefs are necessarily, as part of their essential nature, subject to certain evaluative standards. In particular, beliefs are necessarily defective in a certain way if they are false or unresponsive to counterevidence. In this way, believing is unlike supposing or imagining. If I merely suppose that P is true, nothing need have gone wrong if P is false. The supposition is in no way defective. Similarly, if I imagine Q and then learn that evidence supports not-Q, nothing need ha ..read more
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The Washout Argument Against Longtermism
The Splintered Mind By Eric Schwitzgebel
by Eric Schwitzgebel
2M ago
I have a new essay in draft, "The Washout Argument Against Longtermism". As always, thoughts, comments, and objections welcome, either as comments on this post or by email to my academic address. Abstract: We cannot be justified in believing that any actions currently available to us will have a non-negligible positive influence on the billion-plus-year future. I offer three arguments for this thesis. According to the Infinite Washout Argument, standard decision-theoretic calculation schemes fail if there is no temporal discounting of the consequences we are willing to consider. Given the non ..read more
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Could the Universe Be Infinite?
The Splintered Mind By Eric Schwitzgebel
by Eric Schwitzgebel
2M ago
It's not absurd to think the universe might endure forever. by Eric Schwitzgebel and Jacob Barandes From The Weirdness of the World, forthcoming from Princeton University Press in January, excerpted Dec 15 at Nautilus. On recent estimates, the observable universe—the portion of the universe that we can detect through our telescopes—extends about 47 billion light-years in every direction. But the limit of what we can see is one thing, and the limit of what exists is quite another. It would be remarkable if the universe stopped exactly at the edge of what we can see. For one thing, that would p ..read more
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