I took the "What is Your World View?" quiz and discovered to my surprise that I'm a postmodernist. Who knew that believing in context-dependence and the importance of analyzing language entails postmodernism? OK, maybe it didn't help that I voted for interpretation being an intrinsic feature of the universe (what else would it be?), though I did put in a vote for truth.
You scored as Postmodernist. Postmodernism is the belief in complete open interpretation. You see the universe as a collection of information with varying ways of putting it together. There is no absolute truth for you; even the most hardened facts are open to interpretation. Meaning relies on context and even the language you use to describe things should be subject to analysis.
The Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona is running a webcourse on consciousness, directed by Bernard Baars and Katharine McGovern, from June 12 to September 25 this year. It should give an excellent background in the field (especially on the cognitive science side) for people who don't have courses like this at their own university, or who are outside the academic system. The rates are pretty reasonable, especially if you register by May 25.
Plans are also well underway for the next Tucson conference on Toward a Science of Consciousness, to be held April 4-8, 2006. Speakers will include Antonio Damasio, Paul Davies, Walter Freeman, Douglas Hofstadter, David Rosenthal, Oliver Sacks, John Searle, and many others.
An interesting conversation at the Pacific APA: name great works in analytic philosophy published in the 1960s. One can find important papers and books if one tries. But it's not as easy as you'd think, and even in many of these cases, it's not the most important work by the philosopher in question. The contrast with the 1950s and the 1970s, where truly major works just roll off the tongue, is pretty striking. Of course there's no doubt that a lot of important work was going on in the 1960s, and the many major books and articles of the early 1970s were presumably the result of hard thinking in the preceding years. But going by publication dates, there's nevertheless the appearance of a mild down period. Why the drop-off just then? (In a period of fruition for so many other areas, too.) Perhaps it was some sort of intergenerational period of consolidation. It's surprising, all the same.
Still, one might take the phenomenon as hopeful. Lots of people have discerned a similar drop-off in truly important philosophical work in the 1980s, or the 1990s, or choose your decade. Of course perspective makes this hard to assess, and there's unquestionably been a lot of very good work in these decades. But it's a common enough judgment, one that makes some people worry about the future of the field. Nevertheless: if we take the 1960s as a model, one might hope that any contemporary drop-off is just another eye in the (multiple-eyed?) storm.
Anyway, suggested explanations of the phenomenon, and/or defenses of the 1960s, are welcome.
While doing an unrelated bibliographic search, I came across the following debate in an unexpected corner of the literature: "The neurobehavioral nature of fishes and the question of awareness and pain", by James D. Rose, and "An evaluation of current perspectives on consciousness and pain in fishes", by Kristopher Chandroo, Stephanie Yue, and Richard Moccia. The former, published in Reviews in Fisheries Science (!), argues, based on neurobiological evidence, that fish are not conscious and so can't feel pain. (Handy conclusion, that.) The latter, published in Fish and Fisheries, argues in response that fish probably are conscious and do feel pain. Both articles are reasonably sophisticated and offer food for philosophical thought. If you have access, check them out.
Between the titles of the papers and the title of the second journal, one also
senses the surface of a major "fish" vs. "fishes" debate in the field. As a Hitchhikers fan, I don't think "So Long and Thanks
for All the Fishes" has quite the same ring...
A conference on Metametaphysics: Do Ontological Questions have Determinate Answers? will be held at the ANU on June 30 and July 1 this year, organized by the Centre for Consciousness. The idea is to focus on the debate between broadly realist and broadly deflationary approaches to metaphysical questions of existence: is there always a fact of the matter about whether mereological sums exist, say, or about whether numbers exist? Lewis vs. Carnap, one might say. Speakers will include Karen Bennett, Huw Price, Ted Sider, Amie Thomasson, Steve Yablo, and me. It should be a lot of fun.
Note that the conference will be held just before the Australasian Association of Philosophy conference, which will be July 3-8 in Sydney. Later in July, there will be a conference on Philosophical Methodology at the ANU on July 20-22, organized by Daniel Stoljar, and featuring Martin Davies, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Sally Haslanger, Frank Jackson, Tim Williamson, and Steve Yablo. Tim Williamson is also giving the Jack Smart Lecture on July 26, on "Philosophy, Conceptual Analysis, and the World". It looks like it will be a busy winter of philosophy in Australia.
Congratulations to my colleague Alan Hájek for a remarkable double: winning the APA article prize (for best philosophical article published in 2002 or 2003 by someone 40 or younger) for his 2003 paper "What Conditional Probability Could Not Be", and having his paper "Waging War on Pascal's Wager" selected for the 2004 Philosopher's Annual (for the ten best papers published in 2003). There's an obvious threat of contradiction here, but perhaps one can escape by deducing that Al turned 40 during 2003 and that oldsters write many better papers than youngsters!