In Memoriam: Derek Parfit (1942 – 2017)

Very sad news.Derek Parfit was one of the most influential moral philosophers of the last 50 years. But saying that, I suspect, undervalues his contributions to the field of philosophy. It is certain that his work will continue to be read and to influence future philosophers for a very long time.Parfit’s work had a very great effect on my own development as a philosopher. In my junior year of college, I read his Reasons and Persons and was overwhelmed by the lucidity and compelling n … [Read more...]

Happy Birthday Mr. Newton

Here are the opening paragraphs about Isaac Newton in Wikipedia (his birthdate in Wikipedia is based on the Jullian calendar which was still in use in England when Newton was born; January 4th is his birthdate according to the Gregorian calendar) :================================Sir Isaac Newton PRS (/ˈnjuːtən/;[6] 25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27[1]) was an English mathematician, astronomer, and physicist (described in his own day as a "natural philosopher") who is widely recognised a … [Read more...]

Unapologetic Review – Part 8: Religion & Irrationality

Mr. Loftus is on a crusade against "faith", but it is not at all clear what dragon it is that he intends to slay.A part of his point, I believe, is to boldly assert that religion and religious belief is irrational.  I'm reluctant to disagree with this point. There is a good deal of truth to this point, and this is important truth too.I have attempted to add some balance to this truth by pointing out that irrationality is a universal human problem that is NOT confined to religion, to … [Read more...]

Science Matters

Will science matter in the Trump Administration? All signs are that it will not. Indeed, not only will science not matter, it will be actively opposed. The title of Lawrence Krauss’s article “Donald Trump’s War on Science,” published in the December 13 New Yorker, sounds alarmist. After all, haven’t we heard hype from the right about the “War on Christmas” and the “War on traditional values,” and so forth? Is Krauss engaging in the same sort hyperbole? Not at all. He details the “qualifications” … [Read more...]

The Empirical Confirmation of Miracle Claims

Is the empirical confirmation of miracles possible, in principle? Hume has often been interpreted as denying the possibility. However, Hume does say that it is conceivable that there could be testimony for a miraculous event that is so unlikely to be false that it would be a “greater miracle” for the testimony to be false than the occurrence of the event. Presumably, he means that, in principle, the likelihood of the provision of particular testimony T, given the non-occurrence of the Miracle M, … [Read more...]

Truth: What Really Matters Now

In the nearly ten years that I have been contributing to Secular Outpost, I have enjoyed conversations with a number of outstanding theistic thinkers. I will not name them since that might lead some respondents to focus on these individuals rather than the general point I am making. While we deeply disagree on philosophical issues, I have learned a great deal from these interlocutors, and I regard them with a deep respect that I hope is mutual. Though our differences are deep, there is something … [Read more...]

Consciousness and souls

Substance dualists insist that no matter what goes on in the squishy 3 pound lump of brain inside the human skull, none of it constitutes what is really essential to human cognition. Something else, an immaterial soul, has to be added to the brain in order for it to … well, to do something – just what is not entirely clear. Free will, consciousness, and personal identity are some of the most common candidates.There are a lot of problems with substance dualism, but for me one of the most com … [Read more...]

Living in the Post-Truth Era

Donald Trump sailed into the White House on an ocean of lies. His erstwhile political opponent, and then wishy-washy supporter, Sen. Ted Cruz called Trump a “pathological liar.” I take it that a liar becomes pathological when his lies are no longer conscious fabrications, but merely statements made with no regard to truth or falsity. The pathological liar does not circumvent truth; he is oblivious to it. Truth is simply irrelevant to his narrative, which is aimed entirely at creating an emo … [Read more...]