UCSB Philosophy Blog

Members of the UCSB Department of Philosophy and anyone else are welcome to talk philosophy with us. Bring your own brain.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I will choose free will

Hey folks. The Guerilla Radio Show returns to full power tonight with a show on Free Will. What is Free Will? How can I get some? If you choose not to decide, have you still made a choice? Check us out on KCSB 91.9 if you can get it on your radio. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell the KCSB webcast is currently not functioning, so if you're not in our radio listening area, you won't be able to hear the show until we archive it on the GRS website, which should be fairly soon after the broadcast.

And here's a quick philosophical/logical question for your blog-reading (dis)pleasure: if laws (of nature) are more than just regularities, but the laws of nature could have been different (e.g. E=mc2 might have been false), then is there a way to cash out physical necessity in terms of possible worlds? Here's the problem: Say we have a law of nature /\x(Fx->Gx), which is true in this world, but not necessary because in some worlds there are different laws. It looks like there's no way to make this law "necessary" in any weaker way that doesn't break down into making it a contingent regularity. If we say that it's physically necessary, in the sort of standard way of formalizing that ([](LP->/\x(Fx->Gx)), where LP is a proposition stating some specified set of laws of physics; thus, the laws of physics strictly imply the regularity), we end up with a proposition that's still contingently true, because making it "physically necessary" in this way just made it true in worlds where the laws of physics come out true. If it's contingent that these laws of physics hold, then it's no less contingent that our regularity holds, if it only holds where the laws of physics do. We seem to want to say: the laws could have been different, but given that they are such-and-such, this regularity necessarily follows. But the standard ways to formalize this can only render it as: there are regularities that hold in only some worlds (specifically, worlds where certain other regularities hold); this seems to lack entirely the "necessity" we're looking for. Unless I'm missing something, there doesn't seem to be an obvious way to formalize physical necessity in the non-Humean, "necessitarian" way that a lot of philosophers would like to assert it. If that's the case, then either this is a deficiency in possible worlds semantics (I believe, though I haven't here argued, that this problem generalizes to any semantics of modal logic given in an extensional metalanguage, including Lewis/Stalnaker counterfactuals), or it indicates an incoherency in "necessitarian" physical necessity: physical necessity either can't be cashed out in terms of truth in a certain set of worlds, or it can and it's thus nothing more than a contingent regularity. I hope this is stated clearly enough that you can see the problem; it's kind of off-the-cuff, though, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's obscure. Of course, you can leave a comment asking for clarification. :)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wha Happen?

Hey all 2 of you readers. Most of us philgrads have been busy lately, what with term papers and exams coming up. But there's still stuff going on. I missed giving a timely announcement, but there was a meeting of the Santa Barbarians last Monday to discuss more of Kaplan's "Reading 'On Denoting' on its Centenary". Here's the more timely news:
  • This Friday (tomorrow), our department will host a colloquium with Elizabeth Harman, whose talk is titled "The Mistake in 'I'll Be Glad I Did It' Reasoning: The Significance of Future Desires".

  • Chris and I will be performing some wide-ranging updates on the UCSB Philosophy Department's website sometime in the next month or two, including adding color portraits of many faculty and grad students, and cleaning up some odds and sods. If you have a photo of yourself you'd like to see replace our current photo (some of them are decidedly unflattering), please send it to one of us. If you have any suggestions for alterations to the site, let us know.

  • Next Tuesday's broadcast of The Guerrilla Radio Show may be preempted by a UCSB soccer match, so if we air, we'll likely replay a classic show. We do have some guests and topics lined up for future shows, however. See the show's website for details.
I should add that the November 8th broadcast (and its rebroadcast last Tuesday) of the GRS was somewhat controversial (if you missed it, check it out in the GRS archives); some were disturbed by the discussion and some by the format of the show itself. Let it be known that it was a special show broadcast during KCSB's annual pledge drive, and differed somewhat from the format of most of our shows. Usually we actually do a good bit of philosophy (to "wage war against idiocy" as our slogan has it), but on that show we only barely started philosophizing, instead dedicating most of the time to a) soliciting pledges, and b) joking around. Only so much philosophy can be done in an hour-long show, and very little can be done in less than an hour, so we decided to "fight idiocy with idiocy" for a lark. Make of that what you will, but we had some fun. We now return you to your regularly scheduled philosophy talk show, already in progress. For some nearby value of "now".

There are 2 weeks (!) left in the quarter before finals, so there may be some dead air on der blog here, as it were. However, I happen to know that all the philgrads (and our special guest bloggers) are all philosophizing on a regular basis, so perhaps someone will give us a real philosophical post for the first time in a while. ;) ;)

Monday, November 07, 2005

How Not to Mend the Beta-Part

As many of you know, the UCSB Philosophy Department was well represented this year at the 10th annual Southern California Philsophy Conference at Cal-State, Northridge. One of the highlights of the conference was Sean Choi's presentation on "How not to argue for principle beta" (aka, 'How not to mend the beta part'). Thanks to Sian Griffith, who was kind enough to snap a few photos during the conference, we're able to provide some visual representation of Sean doing his thing (click here for more conference photos). And if the photo isn't enough for you, check out the musical version of "How to mend the beta-part!"

Friday, November 04, 2005

Barbarians, Radio show

Hello then. As mentioned in the last post, the Santa Barbarians are still going. Contact Tony Anderson for info. This coming Monday (7 Nov) we'll discuss the first 20 pages of David Kaplan's "Reading 'On Denoting' on its Centenary", available here.

The Guerrilla Radio Show will be conducting a quasi-philosophical counseling session for its next two airings. Regular shows will resume after that. Tune in for some philosophical hilarity.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Guerrilla Radio Show / Reading groups

Hi people. It's retro news day. On the Guerrilla Radio Show on Tuesday we talked about Eastern Philosophy, with a special guest Dr. Roger Ames. See the GRS website/blog for some suggested readings on the topic.

Some of the reading groups in the department appear to be on hiatus. The Philosophy of Language group will be slumbering until next quarter, and will probably only be operating for the first half of the quarter, in response to attendance patterns. The Philosophy of Mind group is still MIA, but the Santa Barbarians should be back in action soon. Stay tuned.