Retrofit 5-Pack, end of 2009 spirit

Here are five What Sorts posts that I had particular fun writing–from mid-2008 to early 2009–that can serve as a kind of bon voyage for 2009 … despite the fact that only two of them were written in 2009, and pretty early on, at that. Farewell 2009, farewell! May 2010 bring more sunshine and fewer clouds.

Julia Serano’s “Cocky”

“Let’s Talk About It”: Contemporary Eugenics for Louisiana and the Problem of Intergenerational Welfare

Two birds, one stone

Pollyannaism about polygamy: Martha Nussbaum on Mormon History

Standing corrected: Why is there no apostrophe in “Hells Angels”?

What is Experimental Philosophy? The Video!

In this short video, Eugene Mirman gives an answer to this question that takes you through one of the best-known “experiments” in the newly developing field of experimental philosophy–one developed by Josh Knobe, whom you can see at Bloggingheads.TV at length in conversation with John Horgan about experimental philosophy back in February.

[Sorry, no captions for this video but there is a transcript below the cut. Despite all the developments on captioning at the “front end” via Youtube, we still haven’t found a systematic way to caption that we can afford, time or money-wise, at the “back end”. But we’re still working on it. …]

Manypetunias asked way back when–How is experimental philosophy different from social psychology?–a question you might have after watching this video. Short answer: mostly because the sorts of intuitions that it probes, at least in cases like these, are those that feature in classic philosophical issues (in this case, moral responsibility). X-phi-ers, despite burning the armchair of traditional philosophical analysis, typically are still interested in the questions as their more sedentary predecessors. They just don’t want to sit down!

h/t to Experimental Philosophy, and also congratulations on a vid that will promote interest in the question: What is x-phil?.

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Where is our thinking about people thinking located?

Over at The Situationist there is a recent post on the work of Rebecca Saxe , a cognitive neuroscientist at MIT, on the brain localization of thought about the minds of others, and about moral reasoning that involves the attribution of mental states to others. They basically cut and paste an article on Saxe from the MIT News office, but there’s much in this of potential interest to What Sorters (perhaps including the pattern of female descent in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences) here. I heard Saxe give a mighty fine talk (on prosody and listeners’ representations) at the Society for Philosophy and Psychology annual meeting last week in the City of Brotherly Love. A little more on the work itself on folk attributions, its location, and where it seems to be heading vis-a-vis work on autism and moral cognition, two current hot topics at the interface of philosophy and psychology. Continue reading

Two birds, one stone

A few of you will know, however dimly, that two significant debates have been developing over the past week at places like
Experimental Philosophy and Feminist Philosophers. It’s time to bring the What Sorts Collective Mind/Geist to sorting out both debates, and all in less time that it takes to say “Why the hell didn’t I think of that?”. Two birds, one stone.

Ah, the context, for those blessed enough to be NOT in the know. The first goes back to the pre-conference workshop on Experimental Philosophy at the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, held in Philadelphia last week. Near the end of that workshop some hairy whackaloon cretin stood up and delivered a sermon (not quite from the mount, but close by) about the lack of women in experimental philosophy, as represented in the workshop and more generally. Thus ensued Debate #1, mostly conducted pairwise and in whispers in the bathrooms around the conference site, but then taken up at both the aforementioned blogs in no doubt more sanitized forms. Are women under-represented in (what they insist on calling) “x-phi”? If so, why is that? And if not, why do hairy whackaloon cretins seem to think that? And why are these people let out on the weekends, anyway?

Segue, without missing a beat, to Debate #2: should “we” set up a new society with a focus on (ok, I’ll play along) x-phi. And, more importantly, if so, what should we call it? Continue reading